White Sox

James Shields bounces back, but White Sox fall to Royals

James Shields bounces back, but White Sox fall to Royals

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."

One plate appearance was all it took for Zack Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about

One plate appearance was all it took for Zack Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about

Though only four runs separated the White Sox from the Cubs in the ninth inning Wednesday night, it felt like a blowout when Zack Collins made his first trip to the plate as a big leaguer.

The No. 11 prospect in the organization was called up to the majors ahead of Tuesday's game, though he didn't see any action then, and he wasn't in the starting lineup for Wednesday night's Crosstown contest on the North Side, either.

But manager Rick Renteria called on Collins to pinch hit — an appearance perhaps only made possible by National League rules in a National League park — with two outs to go in the top of the ninth inning.

"It was huge for me. It was a dream come true," he said after the game. "Just stepping up to the plate, looking to the outfield, seeing the crowd. We were down four in the top of the ninth and obviously trying to get on base, trying to keep the train moving. I thought I put a good at-bat together and it was a lot of fun.

"Rizzo said a couple things to me, said congratulations and stuff like that. That was pretty cool. Other than that I was kind of in a daze out there looking around. Like you said, soaking it all in, enjoying the moment."

It only took one plate appearance for Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about. He worked the count full and took a walk. Get used to that.

Collins made quite a habit of that kind of thing in the minor leagues, posting huge on-base percentages over the last few years. In 122 games at Double-A Birmingham last season, he had a .382 on-base percentage, and he wasn't far off that mark in his 50 games at Triple-A Charlotte this season, reaching base at a .374 clip. Last season, he walked 101 times for a 19 percent walk rate. This season, he walked 36 times for a 17.5 percent walk rate.

His walk rate in the majors is a cool 100 percent at the moment. The 1.000 on-base percentage looks even better.

"That's pretty good, right?" he joked.

Patience at the plate might end up being Collins' most valuable attribute at the major league level. His offensive skills have been lauded since the White Sox took him with a top-10 pick in the 2016 draft, and he hit 49 homers in his four minor league seasons, also showing off that power by winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game last year. His defensive skills have remained a question, though, and while he'll most likely serve as the White Sox No. 2 catcher behind James McCann, who's in the midst of an All-Star campaign, he can also be utilized at designated hitter and perhaps even first base.

But it's that good eye that the White Sox are hoping to see from the get-go. They saw it Wednesday night, and it's something Collins said has always been a part of his game.

"I've never really worked on that, so I would guess it kind of came naturally. It's a good thing to have," he said. "Guys at this level have some pretty good stuff. I'm looking to be aggressive but also swing at strikes."

You only get one chance to make a first impression, they say. Collins' first impression was pretty emblematic of the kind of hitter he hopes to be in the bigs.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Mama said there’d be days like this.

I’m not entirely sure whether Lucas Giolito’s mama told him that or not. But you don’t need a baseball-lovin’ mama to know that even the best pitchers in the game can get lit up sometimes.

If Giolito is truly that now, one of the best pitchers in the game, he’ll prove it with what follows, not with what happened Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

A year after struggling to the tune of seven walks and three wild pitches in a Crosstown game he still won, Giolito entered the second of the two North Side rivalry games as a surefire All Star, a completely transformed pitcher who currently sits as one of the best Cy Young candidates in the American League. But you might not have known that watching him give up three homers worth a combined six runs in his 4.1 innings Wednesday.

This wasn’t exactly shades of the 2018 version of Giolito, who gave up more runs than any pitcher in baseball, had the highest ERA and WHIP of any qualified starting pitcher in baseball and walked more batters than any pitcher in the AL. No, Wednesday he still managed to strike out nine Cubs hitters and walked only three. But the Cubs hit him hard, with three balls leaving the yard, the back-breaker of which was a first-inning grand slam off the bat of White Sox killer Willson Contreras.

"I got hit hard," Giolito said after the game. "That was the hardest I've been hit in a long time. Just hanging some sliders, changeup was probably the worst it's been this year. It is what it is. You're not going to go out there and have a great outing every single time."

It doesn’t compare to some of the worst outings Giolito had last season, but it was shocking to see considering the incredible run he came in on. Entering Wednesday night’s contest, Giolito had won eight straight starts, with a 0.94 ERA during that stretch. He had given up as many runs after facing five batters Wednesday as he had in his previous five starts combined.

That stretch is now over, and it’s up to Giolito to make this a blip rather than a turning point.

"It’s just a blip in the season. It’s a little bump in the road," catcher James McCann said after the game. "You are not going to go eight-inning shutout every time. It’s how do you bounce back from this one and learn from tonight and move forward."

What he’s done so far this season would lead you to believe that’s very possible. One of the biggest talking points for Giolito, as well as McCann, when it comes to describing the difference between the 2018 and 2019 versions has been Giolito’s ability to turn the page. That’s typically been discussed as something that happens within games: A bad first inning hasn’t led to a complete meltdown like it did too often last season.

“The physical stuff has always been there,” McCann said before Wednesday’s game. “There's a few tune-ups he did, shortened his arm, all that stuff. But obviously, it's the mental approach.

“I can point to multiple occasions this season where he's had a rough first inning. In Toronto, he gave up three base hits to the first four hitters, and then the next thing you know he's hasn't given up another base hit and we're in the eighth inning. He gave up a three-run homer to the Royals in the first inning, and all of a sudden it's the eighth inning and those are the only three runs he's given up.

“So that's kind of been the most impressive thing to me. His last outing, he gave up the solo homer in the first and really didn't have his best stuff, and next thing you know it's the sixth, seventh inning and that's the only run he's given up. Last year, some of those outings turn into bad outings where he gets chased in the fourth inning. This year his mental approach, his determination, his grit is a little different.”

Now he’ll have to do something he’s rarely had to in 2019, and that’s flush a bad start. Wednesday night’s outing was Giolito’s shortest of the season, matching the 4.1 innings he threw against the Seattle Mariners on April 6 and not including the 2.2 innings he logged before being removed with an injury against the Kansas City Royals on April 17. Wednesday marked the first time Giolito gave up multiple home runs in a start this season.

The bottom line is that Giolito has been so good in 2019 that he hasn’t had to deal with the fallout of a bad outing. Giolito has credited his turnaround to the improvement in his routine. That will be tested now, and it’s no surprise that he’s confident enough in it to be ready for anything.

“I'd say now I'm just on the same mental routine, the same physical routine day in and day out. Nothing changes,” Giolito said Tuesday. “It's just like my last start or future starts, I'm going to go out there with the same good, positive outlook going into the game. Whereas last year, I think I was searching for things a lot, so it was a little more up and down. Now it's much better.”

One rough start won’t change Giolito’s status as an All Star or put a damper on what’s been a season worth celebrating. But how he responds will be the true test of whether the transformed Giolito is here to stay.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.