It didn’t start out all that great again for James Shields, who allowed two more homers in the White Sox 6-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.
A first inning two-run homer by Eric Hosmer brought out the boo-birds at U.S. Cellular Field in what looked to be headed towards yet another rough game from the White Sox starter.
This time, Shields flipped the script and finished the game by earning his second quality start in his last three starts.
The 34-year-old right-hander pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits and four walks while striking out five in a no decision.
"I felt pretty good," Shields said. "A little more walks than I wanted to [give up] today, but to be honest, it seemed like that team changed their gameplan a little bit. They were more of a free-swinging team, and they were kind of being really patient with me today.
"I gave up two homers, but the other two hits were kind of just really weak hits. So, overall pretty good."
It was the second time this season that Shields allowed at least two home runs with the game resulting in his team's favor.
He didn't show any signs of back pain either.
"It actually felt pretty good," Shields said. "So, no issues right there."
The Royals drew first blood early in the first Hosmer crushed a 420-foot two-run homer over the center field wall to put the Royals up 2-0.
"Before the game, it seemed like the wind was blowing kind of in, and when the game hit it was blowing out," Shields said. "And then the third inning, it was blowing in. I mean, it was kind of swirling out there, but as a pitcher you can't really worry about that. That's just the way this ballpark is."
The White Sox responded in the third thanks to an RBI fielder’s choice by Melky Cabrera.
Shields allowed his 37th homer of the season — which leads the majors — to Alex Gordon in the third, a left field shot.
"It started out rough in the first and then after that he just seemed to be able to manage it, get through it, got some good innings in there. Gordon got him. Other than that, today was a tough day to pitch really," manager Robin Ventura said. "Winds weren’t really favorable but I thought he did a good job just getting through after that rough first one."
The White Sox got one back when Omar Narvaez recorded an RBI groundout in the fourth.
The White Sox took their first lead of the night in the fifth with an RBI single from Jose Abreu, followed by Justin Morneau’s RBI double.
But Chris Beck, who relieved Shields to begin the seventh, found himself in some trouble.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
After striking out the first batter of the inning, Beck allowed a single and a walk, which set up Whit Merrifield’s two-run double to give the Royals a 5-4 lead. An RBI fielder’s choice by Kendrys Morales made it 6-4.
"We’ve been using a lot of the same guys (in the bullpen) all the time," Ventura said. "(Nate Jones) wasn’t available tonight but Beck's been creeping his way in there in the seventh inning. It’s a tough one especially with the speed that’s on the bases. That puts him in a bit of a spot right there to be able to be quick to the plate and get the guy. That was the one time he didn’t do it."
The White Sox made things interesting in the ninth.
Tyler Saladino’s single — his third straight game with three hits — and Adam Eaton’s double led off the inning to put runners at second and third with nobody out. Cabrera’s infield single, which gave him his sixth RBI in the last three games, cut the deficit to 6-5.
But back-to-back strikeouts by Abreu and Morneau ended the game and the White Sox three-game winning streak. Beck suffered the loss.
"We had a shot at (Royals closer Wade Davis)," Ventura said. "You don’t really get that many opportunities against Wade. He proves every time he goes out there how good he is and for us we rarely had some opportunities against him.
"Tonight we were in a good spot right there once Adam (Eaton) hit his double. I think that he’s so good in tough situations that he just ended up coming out on top. We had our opportunity."
Reliever Blake Smith made his major-league debut and pitched a scoreless, no-hit ninth inning.
With the season winding down, the Royals find themselves fighting for a wild card spot. But the White Sox don't mind spoiling their postseason hopes, or any team's.
"We want to finish strong as a team, in general. We want to be that team that finishes strong and has a good thought process going into the offseason, no matter what happens down the road here. But we're going to try and win the series tomorrow."