Twins take down White Sox

Published 2:41 am Thursday, June 20, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Morneau watched the ball sail off one of his big swings toward right field, and finally the flight ended in the seats.

After 168 at-bats without a home run, Minnesota’s most powerful hitter for the past decade went deep again.

Morneau’s two-run shot and Brian Dozier’s three-run homer helped the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 7-4 on Wednesday.

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“They’ll come in bunches. You’ll see him at 20-plus before too long,” Dozier said.

Morneau’s third homer of the season followed an RBI single by Josh Willingham in the sixth off Deunte Heath after Chris Sale’s night ended after five shaky innings. Morneau last went deep on April 28. The 2006 AL MVP has three seasons of 30-plus homers, but he hasn’t done that since 2009.

“I was sure hoping it was going to be gone, that’s for sure,” Morneau said. “It’s been a while. It was good feeling. It was a good game for us. Hopefully that gets the monkey off my back, and we can get rolling.”

His teammates teased him in the dugout after he rounded the bases, pretending to ignore him, a silent-treatment trick instigated by manager Ron Gardenhire, according to Dozier. So Morneau gave out a bunch of air high-fives, a light moment on a night when several Twins enjoyed fine performances.

“You can stand there and look like an idiot or high-five the air like an idiot. I chose to high-five the air like an idiot. It was fun,” Morneau said.

Glen Perkins pitched a perfect ninth for the second game in a row, recording his 18th save in 20 tries, after Kevin Correia (6-4) pitched into the seventh. Dozier reached base four times, including a three-run homer in the second against Sale (5-6).

The White Sox have dropped six of seven to fall to 29-40. They’re 11 games under .500 for the first time since an 11-22 record on May 6, 2011.

“We haven’t quit. It’s still a long way to go, and we can get hot any time,” right fielder Alex Rios said. “Any moment, we can turn things around. We’re going to keep grinding until there’s nothing left.”

If Sale is struggling, that’s almost a sure sign the White Sox are in trouble too. The lanky left-hander failed to reach the sixth inning for the first time in his last 10 starts, giving up four runs and eight hits. He also walked two, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.

Four of Sale’s five strikeouts were notched with his first four outs, but the second inning was a rough one. Oswaldo Arcia hit a sharp comebacker that Sale got a glove on to protect his body, but in doing so he jerked his midsection backward and flipped over from the momentum. The ball grazed his arm and his chin.

Arcia had a one-out single, and Sale stayed in the game after he was checked out. Then Clete Thomas walked, and Dozier’s two-out drive — his fifth homer this season — put the Twins in front 3-1.

Right before that, as Sale covered first base to barely get Pedro Florimon on a 3-1 groundout, the pitcher appeared to twist his left knee after trying to slow down and pivot toward the diamond as the runners moved to second and third. That prompted a second manager-trainer visit to Sale. He didn’t show any discomfort after that, but he never found his form.

Sale said neither of those scary plays affected his pitching.

“Getting behind guys, that’s what happens. They make you pay for it,” Sale said.

Trevor Plouffe’s RBI single in the third inning extended the lead, and the Twins left eight men on base over Sale’s five innings. Sale is 0-4 in four starts this month, but in 26 1-3 innings he has allowed only nine earned runs.

Alejandro De Aza’s fourth leadoff home run this season was not nearly enough for the White Sox, who crept closer against the Twins bullpen but ran out of outs. Correia gave up five hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings without a walk. He struck out six, after facing his third straight standout lefty. He had a no-decision against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee in his last two turns.

“I’m used to it. It’s fun, going up against a very good pitcher like that. You don’t have any room for error,” Correia said.

NOTES: Morneau tied Kirby Puckett for fifth place on Minnesota’s home run list with the 207th of his career. … Twins first-round draft pick Kohl Stewart shagged fly balls during batting practice after signing his contract and will leave Thursday for Fort Myers, Fla., to start pitching in the Gulf Coast League. Stewart, also a star quarterback at St. Pius X High School in Houston, turned down an offer to play baseball and football for Texas A&M. When Stewart stepped on the plane for Minnesota this week, he noticed a familiar face sitting in front of him: Adrian Peterson. After they landed, Stewart used Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin as an introductory icebreaker. Sumlin was an assistant at Oklahoma when Peterson played there. “It’s kind of intimidating to introduce myself to Adrian Peterson, but it kind of worked out well,” Stewart said.