James Shields gives White Sox what they need by beating up — again — on the Rays

Half his lifetime ago — that’s 18 years, to be precise — James Shields was drafted by the Rays. He was a 16th-round pick in 2000 who managed to work his way to the big leagues slowly and win 87 games for the Rays from 2006 to 2012.

Since then, the right-hander has made a habit of silencing the Rays’ bats. He did that again Wednesday in the White Sox’ 2-1 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field, allowing only four hits and a run in 6⅓ innings.

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“I’ve had some very, very good outings against them,” he said.

James Shields lets it rip against the Rays. (AP/David Banks)

It’s an understatement. Shields, who didn’t factor in the decision, is 3-0 with a 1.36 ERA in 26⅓ innings against his old team.

But this was anything but a smooth start. Put another way: Shields heard boos from the sparse home crowd as early as the first inning. He walked Kevin Kiermaier, Carlos Gomez and Joey Wendle to load the bases before escaping the inning unscathed with a strikeout of Matt Duffy.

The second inning was another walk atop the high wire. The Rays put together two more bases on balls, a successful sacrifice bunt and a base hit — all without scoring. The key play was Shields’ successful pickoff at third of Mallex Smith, who’d led off the inning.

“I didn’t have any control in the first two innings,” Shields said.

His two-seam fastball was running off the plate to his arm side. His changeup wasn’t working, either. The curveball and slider got Shields through, and his two-seamer came around later when he moved over a bit on the rubber.

No pitcher, it seems, talks more than Shields does about the constant need to make adjustments. It’s a message the whole team, struggling at 4-7, might as well buy into.

“We’ve been fighting all the way to the end,” Shields said. “We’re going to string some wins together here soon.”

Jonesing for a save

Nate Jones pitched the ninth inning for the Sox and earned his first save since 2016. He opened the inning by walking Duffy and falling behind 3-1 in the count to Smith, but he responded with strikeouts of Smith and Adeiny Hechavarria and induced a game-ending groundout from Jesus Sucre.

Ahead, behind or tied, according to manager Rick Renteria, Jones was going to pitch the ninth. That clearly indicates Joakim Soria hasn’t locked up the closer’s role.

Infante terrible

The Sox optioned reliever Gregory Infante (16.62 ERA, five walks in 4⅓ innings) to Class AAA Charlotte. He follows Juan Minaya, who was jettisoned over the weekend. The team will announce a corresponding roster move before Thursday’s game at the Twins.