White Sox

Geovany Soto's two-run double in 11th lifts White Sox

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Geovany Soto's two-run double in 11th lifts White Sox

HOUSTON -- The short-handed White Sox finally got out of their own way on Friday night to win a tightly contested ballgame.

Two-out, run-scoring hits by Geovany Soto and Adam LaRoche helped the White Sox overcome a number of mistakes and key absences in a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros in 11 innings at Minute Maid Field.

Three innings after he replaced Jose Abreu -- who left with a finger injury that is likely to keep him out Saturday -- Soto’s two-run, opposite-field double off Tony Sipp helped the White Sox win for only the fourth time in 12 tries. David Robertson pitched an inning for his 10th save, part of 4 2/3 scoreless frames by a restricted bullpen.

[MORE: Jose Abreu exits game with finger injury]

“Got a little messy there, limited on who we could use and mixing and matching,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We started moving guys all over the place, just trying to figure out who you got and who’s available.

“It was a nice win. These guys battled, but I think you look at team wins you’ll have at some point and this is a big one because it was a bit of a MASH unit.”

Abreu left the game in the eighth inning with a swollen right index finger he injured two weeks earlier and headed to the hospital after the game for X-rays. Initially, Tyler Flowers moved from catcher to replace Abreu before Ventura elected to remove the designated hitter and insert Adam LaRoche at first base for the bottom of the 11th. Then there was the bullpen, which was without Zach Duke and Jake Petricka as the White Sox played a doubleheader Thursday and had 15 games in the past 14 days.

But somehow the White Sox found a way to beat the first-place Astros despite their limitations and a gaggle of early mistakes. After Dan Jennings (1-1) pitched out of a jam in the bottom of the 10th, retiring Houston’s 3-4 hitters with two aboard, a White Sox offense that stranded 11, including nine in the first five innings, went to work.

[MORE: GIFs - Robin Ventura catches Flowers after tumbling over rail]

Carlos Sanchez drew a one-out walk and Adam Eaton singled off the lefty Sipp, the Astros’ seventh reliever of the game. Melky Cabrera struck out before Soto drove a 1-1 fastball to deep right to score both runners. LaRoche then singled to right to score Soto.

“To come in here and win the first game is important,” said third baseman Gordon Beckham, who earlier tied the game in the eighth inning with a solo homer and had two RBIs. “So far it’s been a pretty long trip, a lot of moving around and probably a lot of sore bodies out there with yesterday’s doubleheader and then tonight’s longer game. We’ve just got to keep scrapping.”

Robertson called the victory needed.

The White Sox didn’t play as if they wanted it early, tacking two unearned runs onto the record of starting pitcher Carlos Rodon. Rodon, who had walked 15 in his previous 16 innings, looked sharp and walked none over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five and allowed eight hits.

But Conor Gillaspie misplayed a grounder into an RBI single in the fourth inning -- runner Evan Gattis moved into scoring position on a Tyler Flowers passed ball -- and in the sixth, Abreu flipped a ball high to Rodon, who was over to cover the base, which allowed Houston to take a 3-2 lead. Melky Cabrera also had a throwing error in the sixth that setup the go-ahead run.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox offense wasn’t up to par, either, as it had trouble converting myriad chances against young Astros starter Lance McCullers. The White Sox stranded two in the first inning, three in the second, another in the third and left the bases loaded in the fifth.

The White Sox scored in the third inning when Conor Gillaspie struck out but the ball bounded away and catcher Hank Conger’s throw to first hit Gillaspie in the back, which allowed Alexei Ramirez to score.

Beckham also had a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the fifth inning with the bases loaded to tie the score at 2. Though Ventura wasn’t certain that Robertson would be available to pitch, the closer had no doubt he would pitch once his teammates pulled ahead in the 11th.

“I felt good today so I was ready to take the ball,” Robertson said. “We needed this win and we grinded it out.

“We just played so many tight ballgames lately, so many grinder games and to come out on top of one like this is nice.”

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.