By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Wednesday’s game at U.S. Cellular Field was equally important for right-hander James Shields and his White Sox.READ MORE: COVID-19 Update: Indiana Reports 336 New Cases, 30 Additional Deaths
Making his fifth start for his new team since an early June trade, Shields allowed just one run in 6 2/3 inning to register his strongest outing in a White Sox uniform. The effort helped lead Chicago to a 9-6 win against Minnesota and gave Shields his first victory on the South Side.
Shields scattered eight hits, walked one and struck out five.
“This feels good,” Shields said. “This is one to build off of. I don’t really put too much emphasis on my starts. I usually go start to start. Right now, we just have to win ballgames. That is what it’s really all about here.”
The drama surrounding the 34-year-old Shields had been at a fever pitch, as he had allowed 24 earned runs in a disastrous 13 2/3 innings to start his tenure in Chicago. With the White Sox picking up $27 million on his contract over two years after 2016, his early, mind-boggling failures were made all that more concerning.
That worry was quieted, at least for one evening. Shields allowed a lead-off homer to Eduardo Nunez, then settled down.
“After the first one, he got back into a groove,” manager Robin Ventura said. “This is the best he has looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was locating and getting ahead using his fastball. He used his off-speed stuff after that, and they were swinging through it. This is a nice thing to see. I am sure it’s a breath of fresh air for him.”READ MORE: Coronavirus In Illinois: 268 New COVID-19 Cases, 15 Additional Deaths; 52% Of Adults Fully Vaccinated
Before Wednesday, it appeared Shields had lost confidence in his fastball, but he responded with a good vibe. While many pitchers isolate themselves on their day to take the ball, Shields showed a light side in talking to teammates and reporters in an afternoon workout.
“Look, 30 minutes before game time I try to lock it in,” Shields said. “I am not one of those guys that you can’t talk to before the game. I like to have fun, and I am an energetic type guy. I really enjoy my teammates and the game.”
When Shields came to the White Sox, he immediately said there was a special vibe in the clubhouse. He hasn’t backed away from that sentiment, despite the fact that the White Sox (39-39) continue to sit in fourth place in the AL Central, 8.5 games behind the division-leading Indians.
“These guys welcomed me with open arms,” Shields said. “I have been on a lot of playoff teams. I know winners when I see them. When I came here, the energy level just makes me smile. That is why we play this game. It is to compete and go to the playoffs. We have a chance to win here.”
Chicago had a 9-1 lead going into the ninth inning before the bullpen struggling in giving up five runs. Nate Jones came in to retire Eduardo Escobar with two on and two outs to garner his second save of the season.
The White Sox got home runs from Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier. Chicago has 17 long balls in its past seven games.MORE NEWS: Chicago Police Sergeant Struck By Hit-And-Run Driver
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.