CHICAGO -- It was just the first game of the season, but many of the problems that plagued the Twins in their forgettable 2013 season were on display on Opening Day against the White Sox.
Right-hander Ricky Nolasco struggled in his Twins debut, while the offense didn't fare much better, striking out 10 times and going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox in front of a sold-out crowd of 37,422 at a windy U.S. Cellular Field.
Nolasco, who joined the club on a four-year deal worth $49 million this offseason, went six innings, giving up five runs on 10 hits and two walks with four strikeouts in his third career Opening Day start.
He was also hurt by the long ball, giving up a pair of homers to Alejandro De Aza, who had 17 homers last season. It marked the first time a White Sox player had two homers on Opening Day since Jim Thome launched two blasts in 2008.
"I thought I made a lot of good pitches, but I thought the difference in the game was throwing a couple of bad pitches," said Nolasco, who dropped to 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three season openers. "The wind conditions didn't help. I thought we played good, and gave up a good fight to Chris Sale, and made it interesting. So we'll have to come back in our next game and try to build off that."
Nolasco ran into trouble in the second inning, giving up a leadoff double to Jose Abreu on a ball that was misplayed by Oswaldo Arcia in right field before walking Adam Dunn with nobody out. He was able to get Avisail Garcia to ground into a double play, but surrendered a two-run blast to De Aza.
"Obviously, a couple mistakes got hit," Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "On a better day, they miss those mistakes. A couple pitches back and it could've been a different outcome."
It was more of the same in the third, when Adam Eaton led off the inning with a single before Conor Gillaspie doubled to center with one out. Eaton scored on an RBI single from Abreu that advanced Gillaspie to third base. With the Twins playing a shift, Dunn hit a high popup that drifted into foul ground near third base that was caught by shortstop Pedro Florimon, but Florimon couldn't get Gillaspie at home for a sacrifice fly.
Nolasco settled down after the third, but served up a solo shot on a first-pitch fastball to De Aza with one out in the sixth. De Aza's second blast just barely cleared the wall in right field out of Arcia's reach.
"He just made a couple good swings on a couple balls," said Nolasco, who was teammates with De Aza with the Marlins in 2007 and '09. "I tried to throw a cutter there in the second inning, but it stayed middle, and I thought he did a good job of hitting that ball. And the next time, he kind of just jumped me on a fastball. So you just tip your cap. As a hitter, you still have to hit it even if it's a bad pitch and he did that, so it was a good day for him. Unfortunately, it was against us."
So while Nolasco allowed 12 baserunners, Sale was solid in his second consecutive Opening Day start. The left-hander went 7 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts.
"I like where we're at," Sale said. "My slider was probably a tick off today, but my changeup was a little better than it usually is."
The Twins scored their first two runs in the third inning on a two-out single from Suzuki, plating Arcia and Aaron Hicks. Suzuki had a nice debut for the Twins, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs, hitting second in the order.
"It definitely feels good, especially when you're back there and you give up a couple runs, so it's nice to get a couple back," Suzuki said. "It felt good to start off the season like that."
But the Twins didn't threaten against Sale again until the eighth, when Hicks laced a leadoff double for his second hit after starting out last year 2-for-48. Sale then struck out pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar before being removed for right-hander Ronald Belisario. Belisario gave up an RBI single to Suzuki with two outs, but lefty Donnie Veal got Joe Mauer to ground out to end the inning.
Chris Colabello doubled in the ninth inning with one out against closer Matt Lindstrom, but he was stranded, as the Twins ended up leaving four runners on base.
"Ultimately, it came down to a couple mistakes there, and we couldn't quite catch them at the end," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But I thought we played pretty decent."