MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Sale didn’t feel very sharp, and that was before he narrowly avoided injury twice in the second inning Wednesday night.
The Minnesota Twins made sure Sale’s luck ended there.
Brian Dozier and the Twins took advantage of a funky frame for Sale with a three-run home run, and they rolled to a 7-4 victory over the White Sox in front of 30,003 at Target Field.
After he recorded the first four outs via strikeout, Sale dodged a comebacker and later collided with a runner at first base in the second inning before he left a fastball over the plate for Dozier to punish.
Sale (5-6) lost his fourth straight start and the White Sox, who send John Danks to the mound Thursday to avoid a series sweep, dropped to 11 games below .500 with their 16th loss in 21 games. It’s the first time the White Sox have been 11 below the .500-mark since May 6, 2011.
“They got him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t know how much [effect the plays had], but it was enough that it got him off his game.”
Even though he appeared to pick up where he left off in Houston when he struck out 14 in a complete-game performance, Sale said he wasn’t on top of his game.
Sale hit Dozier on an 0-2 pitch in the first and Ryan Doumit doubled over the head of Alex Rios. But Sale struck out the side, including Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau to strand the runners.
But the left-hander’s fortunes changed in the second inning after he struck out the leadoff hitter, Trevor Plouffe. Oswaldo Arcia hit a hard bouncer up the middle and Sale spun over the ball in a scene straight out of ‘The Matrix.’ The ball hit Sale’s glove and he fell to the ground as Arcia singled. After he walked the next batter, Sale got a late jump to first on Pedro Florimon’s grounder to the right side. Sale just beat Florimon to the bag for an out, and the two made contact, resulting in a tiny stumble by the pitcher, which brought athletic trainer Herm Schneider out for his second visit of the inning.
Sale threw two warmup pitches to the satisfaction of Schneider and Ventura and stayed in the game. Two pitches later, Minnesota had a 3-1 lead when Dozier ripped a 1-0 fastball from Sale for his fifth homer.
An inning later, Willingham, Morneau and Plouffe all singled to put the Twins ahead 4-1. Sale also loaded the bases in the fourth inning but pitched out of trouble and then hit Arcia in the back in the fifth inning.
“Just didn’t have good control of anything,” Sale said. “Didn’t have good command of any of my pitches. Getting behind guys, and that’s what happens. Walking guys and hitting guys 0-2 -- can’t let that happen.”
Sale allowed four earned runs and eight hits with two walks and two hit batsmen over five innings and finished with five strikeouts. But he insisted neither the comebacker nor the collision affected him even though Ventura said the pitcher mentioned his knee after the play at first.
“I wouldn’t say that had anything lingering effects on the game,” Sale said. “Nothing was hurt by that time. If anything, I should have been better because I had more rest between that. That wasn’t an issue.”
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Kevin Correia (6-4) also took advantage of Sale’s bad night.
The Twins starter yielded a leadoff home run to Alejandro De Aza to start the game but settled in quickly. After the first inning, Correia retired 20 of 22 batters before he tired in the seventh.
The right-hander didn’t issue a walk and struck out five.
Willingham had an RBI single in the sixth inning off Deunte Heath and Morneau followed with a two-run homer to give the Twins a 7-1 advantage.
The White Sox rallied for three runs between the seventh and eighth innings. Dayan Viciedo singled in a run and Adam Dunn singled in two to cut the deficit to 7-4. Paul Konerko also singled but Conor Gillaspie popped out with two on against reliever Josh Roenicke.
“We’ve been struggling offensively,” Rios said. “We’ve been trying. We’ve had some hints of improvement, but we haven’t been able to have many good consecutive at-bats. But we haven’t quit. It’s still a long way to go and we can get hot at any time. We’re going to keep running until there’s nothing left.”