White Sox

Inconsistent offense continues to sink White Sox in loss

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Inconsistent offense continues to sink White Sox in loss

NEW YORK -- The offense fooled Robin Ventura once this season.

But aside from a seven-day stretch of gaudy production that will keep the White Sox from being one of the worst offenses in franchise history, the rest of the season has been filled with frustration.

One day after his club officially was eliminated from the postseason, the White Sox manager again pointed to his offense Sunday as the aspect most responsible for an underwhelming season on the South Side. Minus seven straight wins in late July when they scored 54 runs and gave Ventura hope of turnaround, the White Sox offense has averaged 3.7 runs per contest, including Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

“You could see things turn around offensively,” Ventura said. “We kind of tweaked it a little bit roster wise and it started to work. We were pitching, playing some defense and getting some runs.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“We could never keep up that offensive production to that extent but you expected a little bit more out of that. When you are inconsistent offensively, and there will be games where you don’t do it, it just wasn’t consistent enough.”

Sunday was the 79th time this season the White Sox have scored three runs or fewer in 156 games (50.6 percent). It was also the 57th time they’ve scored two or fewer runs. And the White Sox -- who are guaranteed a sub-.500 finish in a third straight season and have missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years -- have been shut out 11 times. They only avoided a 12th shutout Sunday when Avisail Garcia crushed a pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning.

This isn’t the kind of production the White Sox expected from their offense this season. Not with the way they invested in what they believed would be an upgraded roster this season.

While Melky Cabrera (three years, $42 million) has exceeded last year’s RBI total, he hasn’t quite been the on-base machine the White Sox hoped he would be. Adam LaRoche hasn’t offered the type of middle-of-the-order protection for Jose Abreu the White Sox believed he would when they signed him to a $25-million contract.

Alexei Ramirez has somewhat salvaged his season but is way down from when he was a Silver Slugger winner in 2014.

And Garcia hasn’t developed quickly enough to help the White Sox overcome their other issues -- namely minimal offense at catcher, second base and third.

[MORE: What's next for White Sox in 2016?]

But for those seven days in July, the White Sox put on quite a show as everyone throughout the lineup hit. The run got the White Sox within a game of the .500 mark, had them in the thick of the wild-card race and prevented general manager Rick Hahn from parting with Jeff Samardzija before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

While the White Sox have been markedly better in the second half -- they have scored 4.52 runs per game since the All-Star break and averaged 3.4 prior to it -- it hasn’t been enough.

“Any time you see a run like that, you get guys that, we were young in certain spots,” Ventura said. “But once you see the guys that have a history and you expect them to go on a bit of a run just to kind of even it all back up and it just never got over the hump once we started going in the right direction. It never was sustainable. That’s probably the part you just sit there and look at and try to figure out.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

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.