White Sox

James Shields rocked again as White Sox fall to Athletics

James Shields rocked again as White Sox fall to Athletics

This isn’t what the White Sox had in mind when they acquired James Shields in June.

They hoped to have traded for an innings eater, a veteran presence to bolster the back of the rotation. They didn’t expect to receive the Shields of old, the guy who anchored multiple rotations and produced nine straight seasons with at least 12 wins.

They just wanted a reliable veteran to pick up some slack.

But for the second time this season, Shields has found himself in the midst on an incredible funk. The Oakland A’s blasted three home runs off Shields on Friday night and routed the White Sox 9-0 in front of 20,011 at the U.S. Cellular Field. Shields has allowed nine homers in his past three starts and has a 17.36 ERA in four August outings. Kendall Graveman threw a two-hit shutout for the A’s.

“I need to finish strong, no doubt about it,” Shields said. “I need to finish strong. I'm not helping this team out right now. So I need to do my job and get better and move on.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Shields has been a 50-50 proposition since the White Sox acquired him from the San Diego Padres for Erik Johnson and minor-leaguer Fernando Tatis Jr.

Half of his 14 starts have been very good.

The other half have been some of the worst of Shields’ career.

The right-hander’s night started strong as he retired the side in order in the first inning, including a pair of strikeouts.

But it didn’t take much longer to reveal Shields didn’t have much. Jake Smolinski’s second-inning smash up the middle caromed off Shields with two outs to load the bases. Max Muncy then took a close 3-2 pitch for a ball to force in a run and put Oakland ahead 1-0.

Shields avoided further damage, but only for a bit as Khris Davis blasted a two-run homer in the third. Stephen Vogt hit another long ball with two outs in the fifth inning to give the A’s a 4-0 lead. Davis doubled off Shields and Yonder Alonso crushed another homer to make it a six-run contest. Shields then walked Marcus Semien and he scored from first on Tim Anderson’s throwing error.

“So frustrating for me,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “I’m trying to get the guy to help us out because I know he can. I guess everything is going wrong. He started the game well and then it got away from him quick. He’s competing out there. He’s competing hard. He’s trying to help us out.

“But you know, he has to keep grinding and trying to figure some stuff out. It’s the only thing we can do.”

[RELATED: Anthony Ranaudo hopes to take advantage of consecutive starts for White Sox]

In his last four starts, Shields is 0-3 with a 17.36 ERA in 14 innings. He has allowed 33 hits, walked eight and struck out five.

Earlier this season, Shields had a 24.62 ERA in a span of four starts, including his last one with the Padres and first three with the White Sox. The 29 homers yielded by Shields, including 20 in 69 2/3 innings for the White Sox, is tied for the major-league lead with Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the club will continue to keep Shields in the rotation.

Still owed $22 million by the White Sox over the next two seasons, Shields figures to be in the team’s plans unless they’re able to find a taker for him this offseason. But one of the reasons the White Sox acquired Shields in the first place is because pitching won’t be easy to find this offseason.

“He’s going to figure that out,” Ventura said. “I think there’s times where a team will hit him around and he has been able to fight his way back. He’s had the roughest stretch when he first got here and he seemed to calm those waters and figure it out. He has the ability to do that.

“He has to be able to get back and we know we can do that.”

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

A rebuild, White Sox fans know all too well, takes place over a lengthy period of time. Progression, development, these aren’t things easily pointed to as a single moment.

Allow Eloy Jimenez to provide an exception to the rule.

The White Sox contention window might not have been yanked open with one broken-bat homer to beat the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But Jimenez’s game-winner was the best single image yet of the direction Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is moving.

Surely you don’t need a refresher on the highlight seen ‘round Chicagoland by now, but take a second to realize how incredible, how unscriptable it was: Jimenez, traded away by the Cubs two summers ago, up in a tie game in the ninth inning in his first game at the ballpark he always assumed would be where he’d be playing his big league games. Well, he finally played a big league game inside the Friendly Confines — and he delivered an unforgettable moment for the team on the other side of town.

Yeah, maybe it’s perhaps a little hyperbolic, maybe it’s a pure reaction to the moment, but: Rebuild, meet overdrive.

“We’re playing in the city of champions,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “The White Sox were champions at one time, the Cubbies have been champions. You have a history of basketball and football. It’s the city of champions, so a lot is expected of them. They’re starting to embrace it, understand it and revel in it.”

Talk of championships might seem a tad premature for these White Sox, still under .500 even after Jimenez blasted them to dramatic victory on the North Side. But then again, that’s been the end goal of the rebuild from Day 1. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the rebuild won’t be a success unless there’s a parade.

Jimenez’s homer came in June, not October. But it cranked the dial even further on the blindingly bright future these White Sox are building.

Lucas Giolito is providing examples of progress every time he steps on the mound these days. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and Dylan Cease are doing their part, too. But no one has been as central a part of the future than Jimenez, the guy who’s supposed to be the middle-of-the-order power bat in this lineup for the next decade. The way he delivered Tuesday made for a flag-planting type moment on the White Sox journey up baseball’s mountain.

“We all knew the talent was there from the get-go as soon as the club acquired him. It was just a matter of time for him to get to the big leagues, get comfortable in the big leagues,” Giolito said after the game. “I think he's getting comfortable with the big leagues a lot faster than I would've predicted. He's a really, really good player, great teammate. Can't say enough good things about Eloy. He really delivered for us tonight, and it was a big one.”

Again, it’s June. It’s a game against a National League opponent, not exactly the kind of game that helps chew up the deficit separating the White Sox and the out-of-this-world Minnesota Twins at the top of the AL Central. But within these city limits, it’s hard to imagine a bigger stage than this.

The media swarmed Jimenez postgame, causing him to express some shock at the number of cameras and recorders suddenly thrust in his face. He’s been asked a million times what it would be like to play in Wrigley Field. When he rounded first base, the smile on his face — a permanent fixture — was enormous. He gave a huge clap when he touched home plate. Were the emotions what he’d been dreaming of?

“Yes,” was the only verbal response. The body language told a much richer story. He let out ebullient sounds that brought to mind Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. The smile nearly got too big for his face.

These were the Cubs he just beat, a team so often the comparison point for these White Sox. They’re trying to find their way through the same total rebuild the Cubs went through. And without these Cubs, the White Sox might not be as far along as they currently are. Thanks to that trade, which brought Jimenez and Dylan Cease into starring roles in this rebuild, the championship future Hahn has envisioned looks realistic. It looks closer.

The North Siders came out the other end of a rebuild champions. The White Sox have their eyes on the same result.

It might not happen tomorrow, even if the bright spots are shining through now more than ever. But it’s something the White Sox are fully chasing. This is the city of champions, after all.

“It means a lot because we’re fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Jimenez said. “We have been playing really good and I think that was a good victory for us.”

A good victory for now. A good victory for later. A good victory, indeed.

That was a storybook ending. And it’s only the end of Act I, Scene I.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

For his first regular season game ever against the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez got a ride from Chuck Garfien which started at Guaranteed Rate Field, stopped at Wrigley Field and ended with Jimenez hitting the game-winning home run in the 9th. First, Vinnie Duber joins Chuck to discuss how Jimenez homered despite breaking his bat (2:00). On the ride, Jimenez' talks about playing at Wrigley (8:20), what Cubs fans say to him now that he's on the White Sox (10:00), how he persuaded Rick Renteria to let him pinch-hit against the Cubs in a spring training game in 2018, and homered (11:30), what his mother thinks of him saying "Hi Mom" (14:30), Jimenez sings hip-hop (17:40), why a home run against the Cubs would mean so much (24:50), his reaction when the Cubs traded him to the White Sox (27:20) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: