CLEVELAND — The sinking White Sox hit a season low Saturday night.
James Shields bottomed out right along with them.
And nobody seems to have an answer for how to turn them around.
Shields, the 34-year-old right-hander acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres two weeks ago, was bombed in his the fourth straight outing, including his third as a White Sox. In the latest, which looked as bad if not worse than the others, he gave up eight runs on seven hits and three walks over 1 2/3 innings in a 13-2 embarrassment against the Cleveland Indians.
This defeat was the fifth straight against the Indians and the Sox’ 17th in their last 24 games. At 33-35, they trail the AL Central leading Tribe (37-30) by 4 ½ games. To think the Sox led the division by six games five and a half weeks ago.
“The most disappointing thing is I’m disappointing my teammates right now and my performance is not giving them a chance to win ballgames,’’ said Shields, who, like his catcher Dioner Navarro was at a loss for why he can’t get anyone out after he had pitched to a 3.06 ERA in his first 10 starts with the San Diego Padres.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know exactly what it is right now. I’m going to keep grinding.’’
Mike Napoli’s three-run homer on Shields’ 11th pitch made it 4-0 in a five-run first inning against Shields, who has allowed 10, seven, seven and eight runs in his last four starts covering a total of 11 1/3 innings. Shields has given up 22 runs over 8 2/3 innings in three starts for the Sox.
“I don’t really know what’s going on,’’ said Navarro, who caught Shields in his prime for the Tampa Bay Rays. “We’re trying to go out there with a game plan and he can’t find a way right now.
“It’s a little bit of everything.’’
And Shields will make his next scheduled start against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park Thursday, manager Robin Ventura said.
“Yeah. You’ve got to figure out this out,’’ Ventura said of Shields.
Shields, working with a 91 mph fastball, a couple ticks below his prime years but still enough to be effective if located, said he’s physically OK.
“Velocity-wise it’s not what he was maybe five, six years ago,’’ Ventura said. “But he still has stuff to get people out and you’ve got to figure it out.’’
In a trade that was supposed to give the Sox a boost but has had the opposite effect, the Sox were left responsible for $27 million of Shields’ contract, including $5 million this season and $10 million in each of the next two years.
Did the Sox scouting department miss something?
“He doesn’t have the stuff he used to have,” an American League scout said. “He doesn’t have a dominant out pitch any more. He has enough but he needs plus command.’’
Shields has performed much worse than John Danks and Mat Latos, starters the Sox released, since he pitched well over his first 10 starts. General manager Rick Hahn dismissed Shields’ last start in San Diego, in which he was clobbered for 10 runs on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings, as something of a fluke when he pulled the trigger on the deal.
One AL scout said he “definitely” would have done the same thing knowing Shields showed “decent” stuff with the Padres.
“The Sox have good major league scouts, veteran guys,” he said. “No way they make this deal if his stuff was really bad. He’s obviously past his prime, but they were just hoping he could hold down the back end of the rotation. But not even close so far. Yikes, I am shocked.”