White Sox

Manny Machado homers three times as O's rout Shields, White Sox

Manny Machado homers three times as O's rout Shields, White Sox

James Shields ran into Manny Machado at the wrong time.

Shields had his worst outing of the season on Sunday afternoon and Machado homered three times as the Baltimore Orioles routed the White Sox 10-2 in front of 31,040 at U.S. Cellular Field. The right-hander allowed eight earned runs and six hits, including four home runs, in 1 1/3 innings and the White Sox dropped back to a season-worst five games under .500.

Jose Abreu doubled, singled and homered in the loss. J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis also homered for Baltimore.

“I was pretty much bad all-around,” Shields said. “I wasn’t in my spots, I was leaving the ball out over the plate and they were capitalizing. You can’t do that to this team — they’re too good of a team and I’ve got to do a better job today overall. There’s no excuse — no excuse whatsoever for that today.”

Shields, who allowed 32 runs (31 earned) in a four-game stretch earlier this season, finished with a Game Score of minus-15. His previous worst this season was minus-1 when he allowed 10 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings on May 31 for the San Diego Padres, his final start before he was traded to the White Sox.

Much like those efforts, it didn’t take long to determine Shields didn’t have it.

After a one-out single by Hyun Soo Kim, Machado blasted a 90-mph fastball out to center from Shields to put the Orioles ahead by two runs. Shields hit the next batter (Chris Davis) and walked another but escaped without further damage.

“If it's not there it's not like he's throwing 98 and that makes up for it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He's got to locate. I know he was upset with the first one Manny hit that came back over the plate. You've got a guy that was extremely hot today and is one of the best players in the game. You can't make mistakes like that. (Machado) just single-handedly put us in a hole.”

Shields wasn’t as lucky in the second inning as J.J. Hardy’s solo homer with one out made it 3-0. Shields then hit a batter and walked another before Machado deposited a cut-fastball into the left-field bullpen for a three-run homer.

Davis followed with a homer and a Steve Pearce double knocked Shields out of the contest. He walked two and hit two as he dropped to 5-14.

“It’s been a crazy season for me,” Shields said. “But like I said, today – there’s no excuse for that. I’ve got to do a better job of focusing and making my pitches and we’ve just got to move on from there.”

Machado also blasted a two-run homer off reliever Matt Albers in the third inning as Baltimore took a 10-0 lead. He became only the second player in major league history to homer in the first, second and third innings, matching Carl Reynolds, who previously accomplished the feat on July 2, 1930.

Prior to Machado, Paul Konerko was the last player to homer three times in a game at U.S. Cellular Field when he did it July 7, 2009. Justin Morneau was the last visitor to hit three homers at U.S. Cellular Field when he did it in the second game of a doubleheader on July 6, 2007.

Machado grounded into a double play against Tommy Kahnle in the fifth and flew out against Carson Fulmer in the seventh inning. He also grounded out in the ninth inning against Michael Ynoa in his bid to become the 17th player in baseball history with four homers in the same game.

“I’ve been trying to find my swing,” Machado said. “This whole series I’ve been kind of squaring up some balls, which is fun. Today they finally went out the ballpark. The ball was going out a little bit, so that helped. It was an overall great day.”

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

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USA TODAY

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.