I have not been a big James Shields believer on his “return to form.” He’s clearly been better than he was during his disastrous start to his White Sox tenure, but the stuff didn’t look quite there, and the strikeouts not being there either (16 in 34.1 innings) backed up the doubt. His work was solid, but I didn’t hear the music or see the ghost of the old warhorse.
1. Shields’ work Tuesday night was not the stuff of legends either. His big changeup flashed some of its old dominance, but it was not omnipresent. His knuckle curve snapped a few times but he also lost track of the strike zone frequently enough to bring back memories of his first arrival, and the Cubs had their share of warning track outs. They are the Cubs, after all.
But in terms of Shields looking powerful, in charge of the game, firing through innings (7.2 scoreless against a premium lineup), this was his peak, his best work in a Sox uniform. A game where he was seemingly pulled for caution’s sake rather than performance.
2. When he wasn’t cruising, or striking out Kris Byrant three times, or retiring 10-straight at one point over the second through the fifth innings, Shields biggest struggle point was not his own making. After a six-pitch battle with Tommy La Stella seemingly ended with a routine grounder to Tyler Saladino to end the frame, the inning persisted after Dioner Navarro was called for catcher’s interference; the Sox third such offense of the season.
Instead of an escape, an annoyed Shields had to grit through an eight-pitch war with Dexter Fowler with the bases loaded before earning an inning-ending pop out. It probably cost him any shot of a complete game, but it showed he still had the bite on his stuff to grit through a challenge plate appearance in a high leverage situation.
3. Kyle Hendricks has typically been a riddle for Sox hitters, but when the standard to clear is “score any runs at all,” he doesn’t seem so dominant. After Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson both reached to start off the first, loading the bases with speed, a Jose Abreu comeback line drive single that nearly beheaded Hendricks staked the Sox to an insurmountable lead at 1-0.
Hendricks promptly settled in quickly, shutting down the first inning jam with no further damage and striking out seven over his first four innings of work. But he hung a changeup to Eaton in the fifth that traveled over 425 feet out to right, and Maddon pulled him after a one out Todd Frazier single in the sixth.
While the Cubs’ late relief is a murderous minefield that the Sox should dread, there is still some shakiness that comes before it. Travis Wood came on to provide some rescue from Hendricks’ difficulties with deep innings, but promptly walked three hitters in a row to give the Sox their third run of the day.
4. Rested after the lesser portions of the bullpen waded through madness Monday night, the late-inning duo of Nate Jones and David Robertson returned with four perfect outs between them. Using both to get four outs seemed a little…well whatever, they were back.
5. With the victory, the oddity of a four-game season series and the hilarious stipulation that the winning team retains the cup in the case of a split, the White Sox have retained the Crosstown Cup. There are a few months left in the season to mount it to the top of the stadium for all to see.
Team Record: 50-50
Next game is Wednesday at Wrigley at 7:05pm on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Mike Dinovo // USA Today Sports Images