CHICAGO -- Three straight quality starts and back-to-back double-digit strikeout performances couldn't prepare Francisco Liriano for what happened Monday night.
The southpaw tied career highs with three home runs and seven runs allowed, all in a span of 2 2/3 innings in a 7-4 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. It was a complete turnaround from his June 25 start against Chicago, when he allowed one run in seven innings.
"I wasn't throwing anything down in the zone," Liriano said. "I didn't have anything going tonight. I was missing my spot most of the time."
Twins starters own a 6.53 ERA in their last nine games and aren't getting help at the dish, with hitters batting .140 over their last six games. The Twins tied a club record by grounding into a five double plays, including four in the first five innings.
"It didn't sap really anything out of us," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "We just kept putting them back out there. I thought we competed really well. We kept putting more men back out there, and we were all over the basepaths tonight, but we couldn't get the ball to go through."
The Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning, but managed just one run on a double-play groundout by Josh Willingham, who also grounded into a double play in the third inning.
Minnesota had ample opportunity to score, as the White Sox, who snapped a five-game losing streak, committed three errors and starter Gavin Floyd walked six batters. But the visitors finished 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
Both Gardenhire and White Sox manager Robin Ventura acknowledged the plays up the middle by shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham completely altered the game.
"Those two in the middle did a great job of getting ground balls and getting Gav out of some situations where, if they get through or you don't get those double plays, it's a different kind of game," Ventura said.
Paul Konerko gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first on a three-run opposite-field blast. After setting the White Sox down in order in the second inning, Liriano allowed two-run home runs to Adam Dunn and Alex Rios in the third.
Liriano surrendered seven hits, including five in the third inning, before Brian Duensing took over and kept the White Sox scoreless over the next four innings.
"We really were happy with Brian," Gardenhire said. "He needed that. He needed to get out there for an extended period again and find his stuff. He got kind of unlucky battling through some things, and tonight I think he probably feels a lot better about himself. We sure do."
Brian Dozier scored on a wild pitch in the second inning, Ben Revere scored on a throwing error by Alejandro De Aza in the fifth and Ryan Doumit hit his third home run in his last two games in the eighth, but the trench dug by Liriano was too deep.
Dozier also contributed defensively with a diving catch in the first inning on a liner by Dunn, which was followed by Konerko's blast, and a barehanded putout on a grounder from Ramirez an inning later.
"This young man can do those things," Gardenhire said of Dozier. "Right now it's all about consistency, and he's still working on that. But you saw a very athletic kid out there."
Despite the efforts of Dozier and outhitting the White Sox, 11-10, the Twins fell to 4-13 against the South Siders over their last 17 games.
The ninth inning was a microcosm of the rest of the night, as Denard Span led off against closer Addison Reed with a double before getting stranded at third base.
"We were there until the end and kept putting pressure out there," Gardenhire said. "We just came up empty."
Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.