Of the 60 pitches James Shields threw on Sunday, a single offering may have set the struggling White Sox starter’s dramatic downward spiral into motion.
A pitch to Orioles’ slugger Manny Machado that Shields intended to keep off the plate instead caught too much of it. And like he did three times during the Orioles’ 10-2 win over the Sox, Machado didn’t miss.
Shields, on the other hand, missed plenty.
Shields lasted 1 1/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season. Yet, given the brevity of the the time Shields spent on the mound, Machado and his teammates pounded him for eight runs on six hits – four of which left the ballpark.
In a season that Shields characterized Sunday as “crazy”, the right-hander left the mound to a cacophony of boos and disappeared into the Sox dugout and made a bee-line for the clubhouse.
“I was pretty much bad all-around,” Shields said. “I wasn’t in my spots, I was leaving the ball out over the plate and they were capitalizing.”
That may have been putting it nicely.
By the time Shields departed, the Orioles had done their damage. Machado’s first home run had Shields yelling into his glove. It only got worse for Shields, who gave up a solo shot to J.J. Hardy before Machado homered belted a two-run homer and Chris Davis followed with the Orioles’ fourth home run of the day.
Adam Eaton’s leaping catch at the right field wall robbed Matt Wieters of a two-run homer, in what proved to be one of the few Sox bright spots for the afternoon. But even Eaton’s defensive mastery couldn’t save Shields from Machado and an Orioles lineup that pounded out 12 hits in Sunday’s win.
“You’ve got a guy that was extremely hot today and is one of the best players in the game – you can’t make mistakes like that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He just single-handledly put us in a hole…Once we got down that much it was going to be hard to come back.”
The Sox’ only runs came on a Todd Frazier sacrifice fly and a Jose Abreu homer that put the tiniest of dings into the Orioles’ lead. By the fifth inning with the Orioles leading 10-2, the only drama was whether Machado would continue his one-man parade.
“I was trying,” Machado said. “I was trying real hard.”
Reliever Carson Fulmer became the first Sox pitcher not to give up a home run to Machado, who finished 3-for-6 with the three home runs. Fulmer got Machado to ground out in the fifth inning before Machado flew out in the seventh and grounded out in the eighth.
Fulmer admitted he tried to remain unfazed by what Machado had done in his first three at-bats.
“As a pitcher, you try to look at the at-bats beforehand,” Fulmer said. “But in that situation, you try to keep him a little unbalanced and luckily for me I was able to do that.”
Although Fulmer was able to do his job, Shields didn’t meet the same expectation.
Sunday’s outing marked the sixth time this season Shields has given up at least six runs and his second straight. After showing brief glimpses of his former ‘Big Games James’ persona in recent outings, Shields on Sunday drifted back into the pitcher Sox fans have seen more than they care to admit.
“(The Orioles are) a good hitting ballclub, but on any given day, I feel like I can beat them,” Shields said. “Today, I didn’t. I didn’t do my job.”
He added: There’s no excuse for that.
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