CHICAGO — By the time Minnesota put together a big inning, it was too late.
Max Kepler hit a two-run double in Minnesota’s five-run ninth inning, but the Twins lost 9-6 to James Shields and the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
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The Twins, who rank near the bottom of the majors in several offensive categories, went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
Kepler’s big hit got Minnesota within three with two out. Nate Jones then came in with runners on second and third and retired Eduardo Escobar on a fly ball to left for his second save.
"Somehow we got the tying run to the plate there in the ninth inning," manager Paul Molitor said. "But it was too big of a deficit."
Shields (3-9) allowed one run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings in his first win since he tossed seven scoreless innings for San Diego at Milwaukee on May 12. The right-hander got hit hard after he was acquired by Chicago in a trade June 4, going 0-2 with a 15.80 ERA in his first four starts.
"It was a tough stretch," he said. "It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time, but my main focus is to win games for this team right now."
Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie and Tyler Saladino homered for the White Sox, who improved to 7-1 against the Twins after losing 4-0 in the series opener on Tuesday. Saladino and Tim Anderson each had two hits and two RBIs.
Eduardo Nunez had three hits for Minnesota, including a homer on Shields’ second pitch of the night, and Brian Dozier extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double in the sixth. Dozier also has at least one extra-base hit in a franchise-record 10 straight games.
The Twins had a chance to tie it at 2 in the fifth, but Kurt Suzuki was cut down by Adam Eaton’s major league-best 11th assist when he tried to score on Nunez’s double to the wall in right. Suzuki was basically forced to head home when Nunez nearly ran him over near third.
"Kurt has to be somewhat protective of the catch," Molitor said. "Nunie’s focus was more on where the ball was rolling than the runner in front of him and we got into a tough spot there. We ended up losing an opportunity."
Saladino belted a solo shot against Ricky Nolasco in the bottom half, and the White Sox broke it open with five runs in the sixth. Frazier led off with his 22nd homer and Anderson contributed a two-run single.
Nolasco (3-6) was charged with seven runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in his second straight loss.
"I felt fine, a lot better than the last start," Nolasco said. "Good enough that I thought we could salvage the game there for the last few innings, but it just didn’t work out."
There were laughs in Minnesota’s clubhouse as players watched video of third baseman Miguel Sano losing a popup in the sun and having it bounce off his head before first baseman James Beresford made a diving catch in Sano’s rehab game for Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday afternoon. Sano, recovering from a strained left hamstring, was uninjured. "The other guy caught it, too, somehow," Molitor said in disbelief.
Twins: Molitor said RHP Phil Hughes has "peace of mind" after learning he needs season-ending shoulder surgery, explaining his fatigue and loss of velocity. "It spoke to the fact that he had trouble sustaining himself and stiffening," Molitor said. Hughes, already sidelined with a knee injury, is scheduled for surgery next Wednesday.
White Sox: OF Melky Cabrera had an MRI on his ailing right wrist and will miss a couple of days with a mild sprain.
Left-handers Tommy Milone of the Twins and Carlos Rodon of the White Sox face off in the series finale on Thursday. Milone (0-2, 5.33 ERA) is 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA in his career against the White Sox. Rodon (2-6, 4.09 ERA) is winless in his last five starts despite a 3.41 ERA for that stretch.