James Shields effective as White Sox pound Tigers

James Shields effective as White Sox pound Tigers

James Shields wants to move on from a disastrous 2016 season and show he’s still a capable major league pitcher.

Even though he described it as a little erratic, Shields’ effort on Thursday afternoon is definitely a good first step. Shields was effective into the sixth inning and the White Sox offense pounded the Detroit Tigers 11-2 in front of 10,842 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Geovany Soto blasted two home runs and drove in four runs and Matt Davidson tripled and hit a three-run homer in support of Shields, who won for only the second time in his last 13 starts and finished with a 6-19 record last season.

“It’s always good to have a clean slate you know, beginning of the season,” Shields said. “But we have a long way to go. Got off on the right foot today. A little more walks than I wanted to. But overall we have a lot of work to do over a long season and we’re going to continue to grind.”

The conditions didn’t appear to favor Shields, who yielded 40 homers in 2016, including 31 in 114 1/3 innings with the White Sox. Winds gusted at 23 mph from right to left at first pitch, which could have created a hardship for Shields.

Also, were it last year, the five walks he allowed in 5 1/3 innings may have sank Shields.

But none of it mattered.

“He was great today,” Soto said. “He was mixing speeds, controlling both sides of the plate. …

“It was the best I’ve seen him.

“He commanded both sides of the plate, his offspeed was there. Great performance by Shields today.”

While Shields got tagged for a solo homer in the second inning when he left a 91-mph fastball up to Tyler Collins, he otherwise avoided damage. He struck out the side in the first inning to strand runners on the corners, getting Justin Upton on an offspeed pitch to end the frame.

Shields struck out two more batters in the third inning, including Victor Martinez. All five of Shields’ strikeouts came on swinging third strikes.

He had 12 swings and misses in all, according to brooksbaseball.net. Shields also induced a lot of soft contact.

He lamented the free passes. But Shields also limited Detroit to two hits in 104-pitch effort.

“We were very happy with his outing,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know he had a few walks today, and he was talking about that after he came out of the ballgame. He was trying to attack the strike zone early. He was mixing his pitches well, secondary pitches. His offspeed he was taking a little more off, which was very effective for him. We were hoping he would be able to get through that last inning of work. It wasn’t to be, but he did a really nice job and kept us in the ballgame the whole game.”

The White Sox offense took advantage of the effort and a poor outing by Tigers starter Matthew Boyd.

Davidson started it with a triple in the second inning, his first at-bat of the season. He scored when Boyd’s throw home on a safety squeeze by Jacob May got away. The White Sox added another run on an RBI single by Tim Anderson.

Soto gave Shields plenty of room to work with in the third inning when lined a three-run shot down the left-field line for a 5-1 lead.

The White Sox poured it on in the fourth inning. Avisail Garcia, who had two hits, singled in a run off reliever Anibal Sanchez. Davidson then launched one an estimated 428 feet for a three-run homer and a 9-1 lead. The blast was Davidson’s first homer since Sept. 22, 2013 and the fourth of his career.

Jose Abreu later singled in a run and Soto also homered to center, his first two-homer game since 2011.

It all added up to an easy victory for Shields, who combined for a 5.85 ERA in 33 starts for the White Sox and San Diego Padres. Shields was acquired in a May trade in hopes that he’d provide the White Sox with a reliable innings-eater behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana in the rotation. The White Sox agreed to take on $22 million of the $44 million left on Shields’ contract.

The trade got off to a horrible start as Shields allowed 21 earned runs and five homers in his first three starts over 8 2/3 innings. While Shields found consistency over a seven-start stretch from June 23-July 26, he couldn’t maintain it. He went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox.

But all spring long Shields said he felt like he would bounce back. After a March 21 start, Shields said he wants to rediscover his aggressive self and become the consistent pitcher he has been throughout his career. Shields felt like he got away from his aggressiveness last season because he had trouble keeping the ball down in the zone.

“Sometimes you have your really good stuff and sometimes you have your OK stuff,” Shields said. “Today I didn’t have my best stuff, but I went out there and grinded it out. It helps when the team scores early, it gives you confidence to go out there and make some pitches.”

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu said he hopes to be ready to go when the White Sox start their series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The White Sox first baseman took an awkward-looking fall on the infield grass while trying to field a grounder in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, leaving the game with what the team announced as a mild right hip flexor strain. Abreu was labeled as day-to-day.

Manager Rick Renteria didn’t have any sort of update after the game — though he said he didn't think it was serious — but in his comments to reporters, Abreu said he felt fine after receiving treatment and will be ready to go for Friday’s series opener in Detroit.

“I feel good right now,” Abreu said. “I got treatment and I feel good. The day off tomorrow is going to help and I hope to be ready for the first game in Detroit.”

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Both Renteria and Abreu said the first baseman had no desire to exit Wednesday’s game but that Renteria was being appropriately cautious.

“He did not want to come out,” Renteria said. “He was pretty adamant but I think all of us, you don't take any chances. I think it was just the right thing to do at that time.”

“When you are on the field, you didn’t want to leave the field. It doesn’t matter what’s the reason or what’s happening,” Abreu said. “But he’s the boss and he made that decision and you have to accept it.”

Abreu went 2-for-2 with a two-out RBI double in the first inning Wednesday before he left. He has had two hits in each of his last four games and is 8-for-15 during the White Sox current four-game winning streak.

The White Sox are off Thursday. The team said Abreu will be reevaluated then after arriving in Detroit.

With White Sox hitters' support, Jose Quintana picks up first win of 2017

With White Sox hitters' support, Jose Quintana picks up first win of 2017

Four runs isn’t exactly an eye-popping total. But for Jose Quintana and his luck, it can seem like a gigantic number.

The White Sox starting pitcher is famously left wanting for run support nearly every time he takes the mound. So after the visiting Kansas City Royals erased a two-run White Sox advantage by the middle of the sixth inning Wednesday, it looked like Quintana might be heading for another bad-luck no decision — or worse.

But Avisail Garcia, he of the resurgent 2017 campaign, came to Quintana’s aid, belting a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put the White Sox back in front. It put Quintana in position for his first win of the season, which he officially earned when things went final a few innings later.

“He hit the ball at the right time. It was a good time,” Quintana said after the 5-2 victory on the South Side. “He told me, ‘That’s for you.’”

Quintana’s own 2017 season hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start you’d expect from the 2016 All Star. He took a loss in each of his first four outings and didn’t pitch like his normal self, entering Wednesday’s game with a 6.17 ERA.

But Wednesday saw Quintana return to form. He struck out 10 batters, a season high and the eighth such effort he’s had in his career. He surrendered just a pair of runs, only one of which was earned.

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Third baseman Todd Frazier said he saw something a little different in Quintana on Wednesday.

“I saw it in his face. He had some look about him,” Frazier said. “It was weird. He was getting mad at me because I didn’t get the ball back to him in time. I love that stuff. I’ll definitely make sure I get it to him quicker. He had a mentality about him, you know, put fear in some hitters eyes.”

Quintana, who kept saying that he “needed” this kind of performance in this game, confirmed it was an accurate assessment.

“Yeah, it was a mission,” Quintana said. “Everybody was doing their job. I needed this outing, so I felt really good on the mound. It was extra motivation to win my first one.

“I needed that outing, I needed that win. I never started like that (with four losses), so I’m really proud of the first win for me. The first of many, so I can’t wait to keep doing my job.”

While the pitcher was different this time around, so too was his offense. The White Sox are locked in some kind of offensive surge right now, combining for 33 runs during a four-game winning streak.

In Quintana’s first four starts, the team mustered just four total runs, shut out in two of those games. While certainly everyone would like the offensive production to continue, it was performances like Wednesday’s that remind you that even when the team isn’t scoring for him — and that’s been often — he still has All-Star stuff.

“As a teammate, you always enjoy when one of your pitchers is having that kind of performance that Quintana had today,” Leury Garcia said. “You’re always trying to help him, you’re always trying to do your best to help your teammates to win games. And for us, the defense was good just to stay there and watch him do his stuff. That was good.”