CLEVELAND -- James Shields’ first three White Sox starts have been nothing short of a disaster.
The veteran’s third turn with the White Sox on Saturday night was somehow worse than the previous two outings. Shields recorded only five outs as he allowed eight earned runs and the White Sox were routed 13-2 by the Cleveland Indians in front of 31,066 at Progressive Field. Shields has a 21.81 ERA since he joined the White Sox, who fell a season-low two games below .500.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know exactly what it is right now,” Shields said. “I’m going to keep grinding. The most disappointing thing is I’m disappointing my teammates right now and my performance is not giving them a chance to win ballgames.”
The White Sox were optimistic Shields discovered something late in Monday’s start against the Detroit Tigers. Though he allowed seven runs in that contest, Shields seemed to settle in late, finishing with two scoreless innings. Shields said he felt good and White Sox manager Robin Ventura suggested Friday that pitching coach Don Cooper and the right-hander were pleased with this week’s side session.
But none of that was apparent Saturday.
Shields walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and Jason Kipnis doubled high off the left-field fence. Francisco Lindor’s RBI single made it 1-0 and Mike Napoli’s three-run, opposite-field homer to right put Cleveland ahead by four.
The Indians didn’t back off as Tyler Naquin’s two-out double made it a 5-0 game. Only a nice leaping grab by Tim Anderson spared Shields from a seven-run deficit in the first inning.
Shields’ next inning started with a walk of Kipnis and a Lindor single. He managed to record two consecutive outs but a Juan Uribe RBI single chased him and left Shields responsible for another pair of runners, both of whom scored.
Shields allowed eight earned runs and seven hits with three walks in 1.2 innings.
“Obviously something is going on,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “I don’t really know what’s going on. We’re trying to go out there with a game plan and he can’t find a way right now. I felt that he made good pitches but at the same time when everything is going wrong, everything is going to go wrong.
“I know there is nobody who feels worse than him. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. I’ve known the guy for long time. He’s pretty pissed off.”
Shields has allowed 24 hits, 22 runs (21 earned) and five home runs in 8.2 innings with the White Sox, who owe him $22 million beyond this season. He has walked nine and struck out five.
Opposing teams have sent at least seven batters to the plate in five of the nine innings started by Shields and at least eight in four frames.
Combined with his final start for San Diego, Shields is only the 16th starting pitcher in baseball history to allow at least seven earned runs in four consecutive starts and the first since Mike Maroth in 2007.
But options beyond Shields are extremely limited for the White Sox and he’ll stay in the rotation, Ventura said Saturday.
“You’ve got to figure out this out,” Ventura said. “Even for him, you’re starting to look at him — he’s not walking guys all over the place, but you’ve got to get through it.
“Velocity-wise it’s not what he was maybe five, six years ago. But he still has stuff to get people out and you’ve got to figure it out.”
For a third straight start, Ventura had to determine how his bullpen would divvy up the rest of the workload. Matt Purke and Michael Ynoa provided critical length as they combined for five innings. Matt Albers and Zach Duke also pitched 1.1 combined innings.
“You get (the bullpen) healthy and then you want to keep those guys strong,” Ventura said.
First-place Cleveland didn’t ease off the gas, either.
Naquin’s two-run triple in the fourth inning off Purke made it 10-0.
Uribe blasted a two-run homer and Naquin hit a solo shot off Albers in the sixth to put the Indians ahead 13-2.
Jose Abreu had a two-run homer in the losing effort for the White Sox. Abreu also singled and doubled and Avisail Garcia singled to extend his hitting streak to eight games.
Melky Cabrera is day-to-day after he rolled his wrist and left the game in the fourth inning.