White Sox

Matt Davidson's grand slam powers White Sox past Orioles

Matt Davidson's grand slam powers White Sox past Orioles

Matt Davidson has never been able to pimp one of his home runs. The White Sox slugger said that not once in a lengthy pro career has he believed he got enough of a ball to enjoy the view as it exits a stadium.

But that practice concluded in the sixth inning on Tuesday night and it ended with a little hop.

“It was natural,” Davidson said.

The third baseman’s late grand slam helped the White Sox pull away and down the Baltimore Orioles 6-1 in front of 15,038 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Davidson’s homer was his team-leading 12th and Avisail Garcia also had a two-run double in support of Derek Holland, who pitched six solid innings for his first win since May 21.

“I knew it when I hit it,” Davidson said. “You don’t really feel anything when you hit balls like that.”

Davidson — who also homered in Monday night’s victory over the Orioles — stepped to the plate with the White Sox ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Baltimore starter Alec Asher had loaded the bases ahead of Davidson by hitting Avisail Garcia and walking Todd Frazier after Jose Abreu led off with a single. Davidson barely missed on a 2-2 fastball, hitting a deep drive foul into the left-field corner. But he wouldn’t miss the 3-2 offering, blasting it 15 rows beyond the bullpen in left field to put the White Sox up by five runs. The ball exited Davidson’s bat at 112 mph and traveled 435 feet.

“He put a great at-bat together,” said manager Rick Renteria, who Tuesday was treated to a belated beer shower for his 100th victory, which occurred on Monday. “Obviously, that was a tremendous battle. I know he fouled off -- hit the one foul, into the dugout or something. He left one up and put a really good swing on it. Obviously was able to drive it out of the ballpark. He hit it pretty well. Obviously those four runs were pretty big.

“He's done a nice job taking whatever opportunities we've given him and that's just a total credit to him.”

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The White Sox pulled ahead 2-1 in the fourth inning on Garcia’s two-run steamroller to left-center field. Melky Cabrera and Abreu, who had three hits, each singled ahead of Garcia.

That was all the support Holland needed as he worked out of a number of stressful situations. Holland allowed eight hits and walked two in six innings. The Orioles had two men reach base in four of those six innings but Holland only allowed a first-inning run on Manny Machado’s one-out RBI single.

Holland struck out five and walked two.

“You’ve got to make the situations as small as possible and make the pitches when you need to,” Holland said. “Made a key pitch to Machado (in the fifth) and kind of continue to go from there.”

Stuck in the minors the previous three seasons, Davidson has made the most of his first crack at the majors since 2013. While he’s striking out in nearly 38 percent of his at-bats, the rookie has a .503 slugging percentage as he’s homered once every 14.6 plate appearances this season.

Still, despite a number of round-trippers, Davidson hadn’t felt comfortable enough to enjoy one until Tuesday. As he exited the box, Davidson hopped a little, a move he said was totally unscripted.

“That one felt pretty good,” he said.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.