James Shields’ first White Sox outing went much like his last before the trade that brought him to Chicago.
The veteran starting pitcher began his White Sox career with a clunker on Wednesday night against the Washington Nationals. Acquired for two minor-leaguers from the San Diego Padres on Saturday, Shields surrendered three home runs and only lasted two-plus innings before he exited. Things got so bad for the White Sox that outfielder J.B. Shuck pitched the ninth inning of an 11-4 loss to the Nationals in front of 15,273 at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox lost their fifth straight and dropped to 29-30, the first time all season they’ve been below .500.
“Today wasn’t a good day,” Shields said. “I didn’t do my job and I need to do better.
“You never want to come into a new team and expect to do that.”
Shields allowed seven earned runs and eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts before he gave way to the bullpen with no outs in the third inning.
The effort isn’t what the White Sox had hoped Shields would provide them when they acquired him for pitcher Erik Johnson and infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. Though they don’t expect him to be the frontline starter of the past, they hope Shields can assume the No. 3 spot in the rotation and pitch deep into ballgames. But Shields didn’t reach the fourth inning for a second consecutive start after he yielded 10 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in Seattle last Tuesday.
“Not the greatest start, obviously,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think he wanted to come in and eat up some innings and everything else and pitch a good game. They got to him early. I think he just struggled through it.
“Just not a good start. Once he started struggling, he started getting it up. The home runs came in there, but you could just tell he was struggling to get through it.”
Shields’ night began on a high note when he opened the game with a punch out of Ben Revere. After a slow trickle to start, his debut sped out of control.
Shields walked Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper beat the shift with a bunt single to third. Daniel Murphy’s bloop single put Shields down 1-0 and Wilson Ramos followed with an RBI groundout. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run shot into the home bullpen to make it a 4-0 game and the home crowd began to boo a club that entered having lost 19 of 25 games.
It got no easier as Stephen Drew started the second inning with a solo homer on a full-count pitch from Shields. Danny Espinosa followed Drew with a solo shot of his own to give Washington a 6-0 lead. Shields allowed two more singles before he pitched out of the jam without further damage. The right-hander’s day ended when Anthony Rendon opened the third inning with a single.
“You’ve definitely got to review it,” Shields said. “I was kind of all over the place today really. Fastball location wasn’t very good. I wasn’t getting ahead of hitters and when I did get the ball over the plate they hit it out of the yard so I’ve got to do a better job of that.
“Be aggressive with the fastball and get better location with the fastball. When I have good fastball location all my offspeed pitches are working and everything else is going good. Today wasn’t a good day. I didn’t do my job and I need to do better.”
Werth added to the team’s misery with a three-run homer off David Robertson in the eighth inning. The eighth pitcher of the night, Shuck allowed a run and a hit in the ninth.
Melky Cabrera, who had three hits, doubled in a run off Shawn Kelley in the ninth to break up the shutout. Avisail Garcia singled in two runs and Adam Eaton singled in another.