MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Sale dodged danger when a sharp comebacker in the second inning grazed his glove, then his arm and finally his chin.
It eventually turned into a rough night. Even the ace of the sputtering Chicago White Sox couldn't stay out of trouble in this game.
Justin Morneau homered for the first time in almost two months, a two-run shot that helped the Minnesota Twins to a 7-4 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday.
Morneau's third homer of the season followed an RBI single by Josh Willingham in the sixth off Deunte Heath, after Sale was pulled following five shaky innings. Morneau last went deep on April 28. The 2006 AL MVP has three seasons of 30-plus homers.
Brian Dozier reached base four times, including a three-run homer in that shaky second by Sale (5-6), who turned in his second-shortest start of the year.
"Tonight is not a normal night for Chris," White Sox manager Robin Ventura 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. 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.
Alejandro De Aza's fourth leadoff home run this season was not nearly enough for the White Sox, who crept closer with an RBI single by Dayan Viciedo in the seventh and a two-run single by Adam Dunn in the eighth. But that came after they trailed 7-1.
Correia gave up five hits and two runs in 6 2-3 innings without a walk. He struck out six.
"We've been struggling offensively, but we're trying," right fielder Alex Rios said. "We have some hints of improvement, but unfortunately we haven't been able to put together many good consecutive at-bats."
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 difficult 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 hit 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 get Pedro Florimon on a 3-1 groundout, the pitcher twisted 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.
"It was enough to get him off his normal rhythm, and after that they got him," Ventura said. "Tip your hat to them."
Sale said neither of those situations affected his pitching.
"I need to gather myself and get the flow again and regroup next time out," Sale said, adding: "My arm actually felt really good."
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.
NOTES: Sale plunked Arcia, coincidentally or not, near the shoulder with nobody on and one out in the fifth. ... Morneau tied Kirby Puckett for fifth place on Minnesota's home run list with the 207th of his career. ... White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez has started all 69 games, but Ventura said he believes a day off in the near future would help Ramirez. "You would like to, but you can't guarantee that," the manager said.
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