What else can go wrong for the White Sox?
James Shields, acquired in a trade to provide a needed boost for a team that has lost 20 times in its last 26 games, instead pushed the nosedive to a deeper level Wednesday by giving up three home runs his first time through the Washington Nationals lineup.
The White Sox lost 11-4 after the right-hander lasted two-plus innings, was charged with seven runs and exited to a chorus of boos from a U.S. Cellular Field crowd
Acquired from the San Diego Padres for Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. Saturday, Shields gave up a homer to Ryan Zimmerman in a four-run first and back-to-back homers by No.’s 8 and 9 hitters Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa to open the second inning, sending the Sox to their fifth loss in a row and 12th in the last 14.
Shields allowed eight hits and struck out two, recorded six outs and needed 84 pitches to get through his disastrous Sox debut. After Anthony Rendon led off the third inning with a single, manager Robin Ventura was forced to use his bullpen early — the very thing getting Shields was supposed to prevent from happening — and replaced him with Zach Putnam.
“I was kind of all over the place today really,’’ Shields said. “Fastball location wasn’t very good. I wasn’t getting ahead of hitters and when I did get the ball over the plate they hit it out of the yard.’’
Max Scherzer (7-4) pitched seven scoreless innings as the Nats dropped the Sox (29-30) below the .500 mark for the first time.
On a worrisome note, it was Shields’ second straight horrendous outing. He was also routed by the Mariners in his last start with the Padres for 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings, a performance the Sox front office viewed as a fluke considering he had pitched to 3.06 ERA in his first 10 starts.
But now, in his last two outings, Shields has given up 17 runs, 16 hits, five home runs and four walks over 4 2/3 innings.
“Just fastball location really,” Shields said Wednesday. “Be aggressive with the fastball and get better location with the fastball. When I have good fastball location all my offspeed pitches are working and everything else is going good. Today wasn’t a good day. I didn’t do my job and I need to do better.
“I actually felt pretty good in the bullpen. But sometimes that doesn’t really translate into the game. Obviously that team is a good hitting team over there but I didn’t give them a chance.”
The Sox traded for Shields, 34, a former All-Star who has made 30 starts and pitched 200 innings in nine consecutive seasons, to be a quality innings eater but he was anything but. Ventura used seven relievers, including closer David Robertson who, pitching the eighth because he hasn’t been needed since last Wednesday, gave up a three-run homer to Jayson Werth. Outfielder J.B. Shuck pitched the ninth.
“You never want to come into a new team and expect to do that,” Shields said. “But there’s better days to come right now. This team is very positive. They’ve got a good vibe in here. Obviously we’re losing games right now but we’ve got a good vibe and we’re trying to stay positive and it’s going to get better.”
Hostetler eyes “true players” in draft
The Sox farm system should get a needed boost with picks at No. 10, 26 and 49 in the amateur draft that starts Thursday. They also have, as scouting director Nick Hostetler put it, a “gigantic” amount of pool money, $9,416,600, to spend. The Sox had $5.3 million to spend on the draft last year.
Hostetler said he’ll draft the best player available with the first pick. The Sox have needs in their farm systems at all, but catcher is particularly thin, which makes left-handed hitting Zack Collins an appealing target. Louisville outfielder Corey Ray is also coveted, although the Simeon product might not last to No. 10. Ray would be the first Chicago first-rounder since outfielder Jeff Jackson of Simeon was taken fourth overall by the Phillies.
“One of our big things this year is we want to start getting more true baseball players in our system,” Hostetler said. “Guys that make contact, pitchers that throw strikes and pound the zone, and just get back to the tools of the game of baseball.’’