Blue Jays spoil James Shields' return in White Sox loss

Blue Jays spoil James Shields' return in White Sox loss

TORONTO — James Shields and the White Sox appeared to have everything under control on Sunday afternoon.

Then Toronto Blue Jays finally arrived.

Shields pitched well into the sixth inning in his first start in two months, but an offensive explosion helped the Blue Jays avoid a series sweep. Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales both homered late as Toronto sent the White Sox to a 7-3 loss in front of 46,599 at the Rogers Centre.

“One through nine you can’t take anything off,” Shields said. “They’ve got a good lineup over there. Just trying to mix up my pitches, my location, trying to get first-pitch outs. For the most part I was doing that. The last inning I needed to bear down right there but pretty good overall.”

Ironic that after he allowed a fair amount of loud outs in the previous two innings that it was a dinker that sent Shields to a no decision. Shields was efficient and stayed out of trouble for much of his first start since April 16. He worked off the outside edge to many of Toronto’s right-handed hitters, which allowed him to avoid trouble much of the way. Shields stranded a pair in the first inning and two more in the fourth after he allowed a pair of deep fly balls outs to Jose Bautista and Morales.

Toronto nearly broke through in the fifth with a bunch of hard contact, including an RBI single by Kevin Pillar to cut the White Sox lead to 3-1. But Yolmer Sanchez made a nice stop up the middle to take a hit away from Bautista and end the inning.

Shields then quickly retired the first two men in the sixth inning before Troy Tulowitzki reached base with a dribbler up the third-base line that somehow stayed fair long enough to hit the base. Shields worked away to Martin but he got enough of a 1-1 cut-fastball to sneak it over the center-field fence for a game-tying, two-run homer.

“I didn’t think it was going to get out,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “I thought Willy (Garcia) had a nice read on it. It looked like it hit the top of the wall. (Shields) gave us a nice outing. …

“He did a very, very good job of keeping us there.”

Shields had hoped to go deeper into the game for a starting staff that is starved for length. White Sox pitchers have produced only five quality starts in the team’s last 26 games. But aside from that, Shields said he felt good in taking the mound after the first disabled list-stint of his career.

“In between innings I was telling the umpire at second base I need to slow myself down a little bit,” Shields said. “Being in the league as long as I have, I still got excited out there. So I was trying to be real methodical with my rhythm. It felt good to be out there.

“I wanted to go deeper in the game. Obviously, 3-1 ballgame, you’ve got to get that out. I got two outs quick in the sixth right there. I’ve got to bear down and get the out.”

The White Sox bullpen struggled to record outs.

Ryan Goins’ two-out RBI triple off Anthony Swarzak put the Blue Jays ahead 4-3 in the sixth. They tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning, including a massive, 460-foot, two-run homer by Morales off Dan Jennings.

The White Sox finally broke through against J.A. Happ in the fifth inning. Sanchez had the third of three consecutive singles to make it 1-0. Jose Abreu’s two-out, two-run single past Tulowitzki gave them a three-run lead. But Happ avoided further damage with a strikeout of Avisail Garcia, one of nine K’s on the day for the veteran left-hander.

“We kept trying to grind. Shieldsy was containing them good up to the homer,” Renteria said. “We were battling when Swarzy came in and we didn't get the result we wanted. I don't think you can put your head down, we won a series.”

How White Sox players managed the 'chaos' of Thursday's record-setting rain delay

How White Sox players managed the 'chaos' of Thursday's record-setting rain delay

MINNEAPOLIS -- Some guys played cards. The soccer ball got kicked around in spite of the close quarters in the visiting clubhouse. There was dancing. A magic trick or two was attempted. A few players even tried to get in a nap.

White Sox players found myriad ways to keep themselves occupied during Thursday’s draining 4-hour, 50-minute rain delay -- the longest in Minnesota Twins history.

Yet despite not knowing what time the game may start, White Sox players found a way to overcome the uncertainty and stay engaged. Similar to May 26 when the first game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers was cancelled, the White Sox figured out how to go from zero to 60 in mere seconds. Though there’s no exact formula for success, the White Sox seem to have figured out a way to endure the elements and get out quickly. On early Thursday evening, the White Sox overcame the rain and misery to jump ahead of the Minnesota Twins en route to a 9-0 victory at Target Field.

“We keep it real loose whether,” veteran third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We have a good time. We enjoy each other’s company. Win lose or draw, tomorrow’s a new day. Today we kept working hard and we knew we had a game to play and eventually we were going to play it. We turned it on at the right moment.”

Jose Quintana saw so much of his iPad that eventually he had to turn it off out of sheer boredom. Thursday’s starting pitcher was almost able to complete two feature-length movies during the rain delay. Quintana, who excelled with nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, watched ‘Fast and Furious 7’ and ‘Get Out’ on his iPad during the delay.

While he liked the action movie, Quintana wasn’t as fond of the latter, though he admits he’s not a big fan of horror movies.

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“I think it was bad because too much time in front of the iPad,” Quintana said. “It made me bored.

“I just tried to stay relaxed, focused on the game. … Tried to come back and work a little bit. It’s a little hard, but we don’t have control so stay focused on the game.”

Whereas the White Sox determined when they played last month at home -- they cancelled Game 1 of a doubleheader at 1 p.m. and pushed the second game back to 8 p.m. because of rain -- this time was in the Twins’ hands. The forecast called for rain all afternoon before things cleared up around 5 p.m.

While the White Sox were in limbo as to when they would play, they had a pretty good idea that eventually they would.

“It’s miserable,” Frazier said. “You try and find some things to do, play cards, hang out with the guys. If you had a set time it would help. But we came out banging in that first inning. It’s huge.”

White Sox manager Rick Renteria is impressed with how his team has handled both long days. The White Sox also defeated the Tigers 8-2 on May 26th. While Renteria and his coaching staff spent a lot of his time preparing for their upcoming home series against the Oakland A’s, he’s pleased with how his players managed themselves through the uncertainty.  

“They’re the ones who are dealing with the chaos,” Renteria said. “They’re the ones who play the game and who have to have their minds to be ready to go out and perform. They’ve been able to respond well. It’s part of who they are, their character, and hopefully it’s something they continue to be able to do and build on.”

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on early Thursday evening that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball/changeup combo, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing.

Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip. Even though it’s clear his crisp stuff makes all the difference, Quintana joked that the real key was another heaping of early run support. The White Sox have produced nine first-inning runs in Quintana’s last two starts.

“Really good,” Quintana said of the run support. “So shhhhhh.”

Quintana lately has been equally as good as his offense.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked at a deliberate pace, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball and a changeup that dropped off the edge along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance.

“Just commanding the strike zone, early strikes and being able to use his breaking ball and changeup a little more effectively,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He finished some hitters with some fastballs underneath that had a little life. I thought that was effective because he used some of his secondary pitches to get them off the fastball, and he was able to sneak a ball in there here and there to do what he needed to do. It was very good.” 

Quintana struck out one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He fanned two each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season. He said he gained confidence with his changeup as the game went along, especially against Miguel Sano, whom he struck out three times.

Quintana said he’s recently worked to get better extension on his changeup. He threw it 15 times on Thursday for nine strikes, including three whiffs, according to

The 2016 All-Star pitcher never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort and allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

“With the changeup it’s the same release point with fastball and changeup,” Quintana said. “Today I had a lot of confidence in my changeup, especially late. … The heavy hitters like Sano and the other guys, it worked really good. So I’m happy.”

The offense provided Quintana with another early round of unbridled joy in the first inning with five more runs. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox topped themselves.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Minnesota’s Nik Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley already gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

Though he’s relatively unfamiliar with big innings, Quintana apparently has already developed a routine.

“He’s moving around,” Frazier said. “He’s got to stay loose. He’s one of those guys who can’t stay still for the whole game. When it’s long innings like that he goes in the cage and stays loose and comes back out and he’s the first one out there ready to go.”

The White Sox weren’t ready to quit after their big first. They added on as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give Quintana a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

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Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.

“Let’s keep doing the same,” Quintana said. “It’s really good. Early support is really good.”

The White Sox might say the same about having their top pitcher back at his best.