White Sox

James Shields strong, but White Sox drop game, series to Braves

James Shields strong, but White Sox drop game, series to Braves

James Shields’ best start in a White Sox uniform wasn’t enough to keep the streak alive.

Despite Shields’ 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball, the White Sox offense sputtered to a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves in front of 29,156 on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. Coupled with Chris Sale’s poor start Friday that resulted in a defeat, the White Sox lost their first series since June 17-19 against the Cleveland Indians, ending a stretch of five consecutive series victories.

Shields only allowed a pair of solo home runs to Jeff Francouer and Jace Peterson in the second and third innings, respectively. The 34-year-old right-hander allowed six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in what was his longest start since Sept. 5, 2014, when he was with the Kansas City Royals.

Over 25 1/3 innings over his last four starts, Shields has a 2.84 ERA. That’s more in line with the 3.06 ERA he had in 10 starts before racking up a gargantuan 24.62 ERA in four starts from May 31 to June 18.

“This is the best he’s been since he’s been here,” manager Robin Ventura said.

The White Sox offense couldn’t solve Braves starter and Minooka, Ill., native Mike Foltynewicz, who struck out 10 over seven shutout innings. Only once did the White Sox put two men on base against the 24-year-old right-hander.

Still, the White Sox (45-43) are over .500 at the All-Star break for the first time since 2012. After winning 23 of their first 33 games, then losing 26 of their next 36, the White Sox feel things have normalized a bit as they get some time off before the second half begins Friday in California against the Los Angeles Angels.

“It was good, then it was bad, then it started getting good again,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s that simple — we were playing good baseball, then we didn’t play good baseball, and now we’re playing better baseball. I think, for these guys, they put that out of their mind and now you’re just, you’re continuing to go every day. Every day’s a new day. I think once you’ve lived through it you can see that the sun comes up the next day and you get back after it.”

The White Sox still have a grave need for better production from their designated hitters — Justin Morneau’s debut, which should come after the All-Star break, should help — and they’ll have to fill at least one turn in the rotation lost to Carlos Rodon’s sprained wrist.

But even in the face of Sunday’s loss to the lowly Braves — who still own the worst record in baseball  — the White Sox will head into the All-Star break feeling relatively confident about where they’re sitting in the American League playoff race.

“We had a good stretch there, and we feel really good going into the break,” Shields said. “Our team has been playing really well as of late, the last three, four weeks or so, and hopefully we’ll hit our stride after the break.”

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

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USA TODAY

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

On Wednesday morning, ESPN.com released their rankings of all 30 MLB team's starting rotations. The rankings were a nod to the current structure of the rotation, as well as how they were likely to perform in the future. And that is why the Chicago White Sox being ranked dead last in the league is somewhat alarming. 

Overall, the White Sox rotation is 28th in WHIP and 29th in strikeouts. 

Lucas Giolito is currently the team leader in wins with four, but his ERA sits at an unsightly 7.19. James Shields has been decent in spurts, but a general lack of run support has limited his effectiveness. Carlos Rodon has been a mixed bag since returning, but was able to reach the seventh inning in his last start. This is encouraging considering that he hadn't made it that far in any of his previous three starts. And Reynaldo Lopez continues to rack up quality starts—much like Shields—but has two wins to show for it. 

Veteran players like closing pitcher Joakim Soria and Shields are sure to be hot names on the trade market, and that could go a long way towards bringing in additional prospects to build up the White Sox farm system, and lead to a much improved rotation in the future.

So the White Sox obviously deserve to be ranked lowly until they can groom their minor league starter prospects into MLB-ready staff members, something that looks like it could take longer than originally expected. Flame-throwing top prospect Michael Kopech is still amassing high strikeouts numbers, but he is walking over six batters per outing, showing an obvious issue with control. 

White Sox fans can take their mind off of ESPN ranking the team's rotation 30th in the league by turning their attention to Eloy Jimenez. He has been absolutely crushing it in Double-A Birmingham, and will likely be making his debut with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights on Saturday. That game will be live on NBC Sports Chicago. So sit back, relax and look forward to the future, wherever it may take White Sox faithful. 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

In Part 2 of "Ask Us Anything" we answer the following questions: Who will be the biggest free agent the White Sox sign this off-season? What are the chances they trade Avi Garcia before the deadline? What's your assessment so far of Luis Robert?  Who's on your all-time busted prospect list? Is Omar Vizquel the next White Sox manager? Would the 1994 White Sox have won the World Series if there wasn't a strike?  What's the long term plan at third base? These questions and many more on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

If you missed Part 1 of 'Ask Us Anything', you can listen to the full episode here 

Listen to the full Part 2 of 'Ask Us Anything' at this link or in the embedded player below: