J.B. Shuck has built a nice little reputation for himself on the South Side despite his sparing usage through the first half of the season.
Of Shuck’s seven RBIs, four have come in the eighth inning or later. And all four of those RBIs have given the White Sox the lead, with the latest coming on a pinch-hit, go-ahead sacrifice fly that propelled the White Sox to a 1-0 win over the Cubs on Friday.
While Shuck only has 86 plate appearances this year, manager Robin Ventura has plenty of trust in him when a critical, late-game situation arises.
“He’s a heady player,” Ventura said. “He knows really the role he’s in, situations he’s probably going to be put in. He’s ready and available. Really, any time we’ve had something come up, he’s been ready. … (He’s) always a tough at-bat. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. I know I feel comfortable having him go in, especially in that situation right there, having him put something in play.”
Shuck only has two strikeouts in his 35 plate appearances that’ve come in the eighth inning or later. He’s always been a contact guy — he hit .293 in 129 games with the Angels in 2013 — and rarely swings through pitches in the strike zone. He’s made contact with 96 percent of pitches he’s swung at in the strike zone this year, well above the major league average of 87 percent.
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“He’s a contact guy, he’s got a short swing, he’s got kind of a ‘I’m going to get your ass’ attitude,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “I’m all in for that.”
Shuck may only be a bit player, but when the White Sox desperately need wins to pull closer to the American League playoff race and keep their roster intact beyond the July 31 trade deadline, his late-inning success has played an important role.
“You get one chance in a game and it’s usually a situation like that,” Shuck said. “And I try to do the best in an opportunity and take advantage of it.”