White Sox

Melky Cabrera, White Sox push past Royals to avoid sweep

Melky Cabrera, White Sox push past Royals to avoid sweep

Melky Cabrera didn’t completely lift the metaphorical weight off the White Sox collective shoulders, but he did enough to save his team from what would’ve been a disappointing sweep at the hands of the defending World Series champions.

Cabrera’s two-run single in the fifth inning was enough to push the White Sox to a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in front of 34,526 at U.S. Cellular Field Sunday afternoon. His single gave the White Sox their first multi-run inning since last Tuesday and their first game with more than two runs since Wednesday.

The Royals may leave Chicago only one game over .500, but in this weekend’s three game series — in which they won the first two games — Ned Yost’s side played like the one that’s won the American League pennant the last two years.

But White Sox manager Robin Ventura isn’t interested in evaluating his team through the lens of the opposition, even if that opposition is now 27-14 against the White Sox since the start of the 2014 season. Despite losing four series in a row, Ventura is confident — thanks in part to a mug-improved defense — that the White Sox will remain competitive in an American League Central they exit the weekend leading by two and a half games.

“We're a different team as far as our defense,” Ventura said. “And I think that's part of going through it, when you play these good teams, you don't necessarily measure it against them. I think we're good no matter who we're playing, but if we don't kick it around we're pretty good."

Carlos Rodon fired a solid 6 2/3 innings to set the pace for the afternoon, allowing two runs on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Matt Albers, Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson combined to not allow a baserunner in the final 2 1/3 innings.

Pitching and defense, though, haven’t been the biggest problem lately (right fielder Adam Eaton deserves a nod for his spectacular catch in foul territory on the first pitch of the game Sunday). The White Sox offense sputtered to one-run showings in losses Friday and Saturday, and needed Chris Sale’s complete game gem on Thursday to avoid a sweep at the hands of the struggling Houston Astros.

That’s why Cabrera’s two-run single felt like such a big hit. The White Sox hadn’t had a hit with a runner in scoring position all weekend against the Royals until he served a Yordano Ventura quick pitch into center to score Alex Avila and Austin Jackson.

“We needed to win this game,” Cabrera said through a translator.

Todd Frazier also showed signs of breaking out of his mini-slump, poking a solo home run into the right field Bullpen Sports Bar and picking up a single and a walk as well on Sunday. Struggling slugger Jose Abreu got the day off in an effort to get him to hit the reset button on a sub-optimal start to the season.

Things don’t get easier with the second-place Cleveland Indians coming to 35th and Shields for a four-game series starting with Monday’s straight doubleheader. The White Sox need a slumbering offense to wake up for good, and Ventura hoped Cabrera’s hit on Sunday could be the thing to jolt this offense awake.

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.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.