At the risk of being needlessly and counterproductively hyperbolic, it would be a crime for the White Sox to have wasted an honest-to-goodness gem from embattled, dismissed and derided starter James Shields. Eventually, they avoided treachery and delivered the Indians an embarrassing if not particularly meaningful defeat for the third time in their four-game set, even if they waited until there was one out in the ninth before they took decisive action.
1. Carlos Sanchez mostly got jammed by a Bryan Shaw fastball with that one out in the ninth, but his bloop single to right-center split the Cleveland outfielders enough to allow pinch-runner Leury Garcia to race in from second and snap shut a curiously run-starved affair. Garcia came on for Omar Narvaez after the catcher lined a leadoff single to center. The speed-only and blocked in Triple-A Garcia coming on for the fifth Sox catcher used this season is the type of substitution September was built for.
2. Three scoreless relief innings and six innings of one-run ball from Shields carried the Sox to that 1-1 tie in the ninth. Shields looked…kinda, pretty good for real stretches of time? His velocity is all gone and his changeup is not the dominant offering it once was, but his usually looping curveball snapped like a real pitch Thursday, and was unusually stacked with weapons to pull from.
3. He certainly threatened to bring back the old Shields in the third inning. A complete loss of his release point led to two walks, two wild pitches and a hits batsmen, but he somehow held the Indians to one run on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly. A bases loaded groundout by Carlos Santana to end the inning set Shields onto a stretch of nine consecutive retired, which included five strikeouts by a man who had not struck out more than six in an entire game since coming to Chicago. A swinging bunt by Santana and a walk to Tyler Naquin put him in a mini-jam in the sixth, but Shields found one more curveball to end his day for his eighth strikeout of the afternoon, and sealed his first homer-free start in his last eight.
4. Not that the Sox offense had a big enough day to merit a second offense hero, but Jose Abreu managed to sneak in a dominant day for himself. A bullet single to center in the first helped the Sox load the bases in vain, but he took it upon himself to lead the scoring in the fourth, whacking a Mike Clevinger fastball for a no-doubt home run to left. He also drew an intentional walk in the eighth, as the Indians wisely ducked him with Melky Cabrera on second, and brought on Shaw to strike out Todd Frazier. Abreu is up to .299/.352/.482 on the season.
5. Nate Jones coming on and striking out two in a scoreless eighth is pretty typical these days, but the Sox relief corps managed to piece together a scoreless seventh with two hard outs off Chris Beck and three pitches from Dan Jennings, and David Robertson sweated out a nervous ninth inning after a walk, a hit, two stolen bases and a throwing error from Narvaez put runners on second and third before he too found a snapping curveball to finish off Coco Crisp. He picked up the win because that’s how baseball works.
Team Record: 70-75
Next game is Friday at Kansas City at 7:15pm CT on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Matt Marton // USA Today Sports Images