James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.
The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense provided him with enough support for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields lowered his ERA over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. Shields threw strikes on 70 of 117 pitches as the White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries.
A turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its high point Tuesday.
Since an atrocious three-start introduction, Shields has rediscovered the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.
With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. The Cubs made him work early as he needed 56 pitches for the first three innings. But Shields got a pair of quick innings in the middle and pushed deep into the second of four straight meetings with the Cubs.
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Only twice did Shields find himself in any trouble and he skillfully dodged it in both instances. After a catcher’s interference call on Dioner Navarro loaded the bases with two outs in the second, Shields induced a foul out to the screen on a 3-2 pitch against Dexter Fowler. Starting there, he retired 12 of 13 batters into the sixth. Shields put the next two men on base but got Javy Baez to foul out down the line with the aid of a nice catch by Tim Anderson.
Anderson also began nice inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, which allowed Shields to return in the eighth. He retired two before issuing a walk and exiting to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.
Shields has a 2.11 ERA in 47 innings over his last seven starts.
The White Sox took some pressure off Shields with a run in the first inning. Shields, who entered ranked 130th among 138 qualified starting pitchers with 3.2 runs per game, found himself ahead 1-0 when Jose Abreu took advantage of a leadoff walk by Adam Eaton and a Tim Anderson single with an RBI base hit of his own. The White Sox left the bases loaded but made Hendricks work.
Hendricks rebounded and retired 10 of 12 into the fifth inning. He struck out seven through four innings and mostly held the White Sox in check.
But Adam Eaton gave Shields some extra cushion in the fifth when he blasted a solo homer to right to make it a 2-0 game. Eaton’s seventh homer traveled an estimated 395 feet.
The White Sox added another run in the sixth inning after Todd Frazier’s two-out single (a pop up to medium right that bounced off the glove of Anthony Rizzo) got things started. Frazier stole second against reliever Travis Wood, who then walked three straight batters, including Tyler Saladino, to force in a third run.