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.”

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

Luis Robert the latest high-end acquisition for White Sox

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?

MMQB's Peter King's thoughts on Trubisky, Howard, White and the Bears offense

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

PHOENIX -- The red-hot White Sox ran into Zack Greinke on Monday night.

He cooled them off in a hurry.

Greinke struck out 12 hitters and Daniel Descalso blasted a three-run home run off Miguel Gonzalez as the Arizona Diamondbacks sent the White Sox to a 5-1 loss in front of 18,333 at Chase Field. The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the White Sox, who had scored 24 runs in their final two games against the Seattle Mariners.

“(Greinke) keeps the ball down out of the zone a lot,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s kind of enticing. He keeps the ball in the hitter’s area and it ends up falling out. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to try to get him up. Our approach was to try to make him throw a lot of strikes. He ended up hammering the strike zone early and then finally he just came into a groove.”

Descalso’s three-run shot off Gonzalez was one of two pitches the White Sox right-hander would have liked back. After Gonzalez walked Chris Owings with two outs in the fourth inning, his only free pass of the night, he left the curveball over the middle and Descalso deposited it in the right-center field stands to break a scoreless tie.

He also left a pitch up to Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth inning and the All-Star first baseman ripped it for a solo shot.

But overall Gonzalez rebounded from his previous two starts when he walked nine batters. He was sharp for three innings as he faced one over the minimum. He just missed to Owings in the fourth, which brought up Descalso.

Gonzalez allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits in five innings.

“You see what happens when you walk guys,” Gonzalez said. “That wasn’t in a good situation to walk the guy. You have to keep grinding, keep making my pitches. Really two pitches were the ones that hurt me tonight. A lot of positives. Nothing to worry about. Keep working hard and things are going to go my way.

“Sometimes things don’t go your way. Those two pitches, if I take those back, you never know. It’s a different ballgame.”

Not only did Greinke strike out a dozen hitters, he limited the White Sox to four hits in 8 2/3 innings.

Omar Narvaez had two hits, the first coming after Greinke opened the game by retiring seven straight batters. Leury Garcia homered off Greinke with one out in the fifth inning to break up his bid for a shutout.

It was quite the turnaround from when the White Sox bashed Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston on consecutive days in Seattle. The White Sox scored a combined nine first-inning runs in winning three of four against the Mariners.