Nationals knock out Shields early, rout White Sox

Nationals knock out Shields early, rout White Sox

CHICAGO -- James Shields' White Sox debut was a less-than-auspicious one, as the Nationals knocked him out in the third inning during an 11-4 victory Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer was sharp over seven scoreless innings, limiting the White Sox to five hits and fanning six.

Shields, who was acquired from San Diego this past Saturday, was touched up for four in the first and two in the second, throwing 32 pitches in the opening frame and a massive 47 in the second. He exited after Anthony Rendon's leadoff single in the third, allowing seven runs on eight hits while striking out two and walking two. Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa all went deep.

"You know you're not going to score that many runs every day, but you've got to take them when you get them," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "The fact is, we are scoring runs, and we're scoring them on the road. And we scored early today. That was big. Shields wasn't that sharp today, and he threw a bunch of pitches early. We capitalized on it."

Nats swat four homers vs. Sox

In Shields' last two outings, he has yielded 17 runs on 16 hits in 4 2/3 innings to go with three strikeouts, six walks and five home runs.

"Not the greatest start, obviously," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I think he wanted to come in and eat up some innings and everything else and pitch a good game. They got to him early. I think he just struggled through it."

Ventura on Shields' outing

"Yeah, I guess location with my fastball," said Shields of his prime trouble spot. "Other than that, tonight I just didn't get my job done. I need to get better at that. We've got to look at some film, regroup and start looking at Detroit."

The White Sox fell below .500 for the first time this season at 29-30. They have lost five straight, 12 of their last 14 and 20 of their last 26. Scherzer improved to 10-2 over his last 13 starts against the White Sox.

Shields, Sox optimistic rough debut just a blip

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Homer barrage: The offense scored 10 runs in three consecutive games for only the second time in Nationals history (June 26-28, 2012, all at Colorado). The Nationals began the day tied with the Mets for the National League lead in home runs with 77. They added to their total with four homers Wednesday night, starting with a two-run blast from Zimmerman in the first that capped a four-run inning. More >

Drew and Espinosa crushed back-to-back homers in the second inning, the seventh time this season the Nationals have hit back-to-back home runs. Then Jayson Werth launched a three-run homer in the eighth off White Sox closer David Robertson.

Nationals go back-to-back

"This could be a dangerous lineup," said center fielder Ben Revere, who had three hits. "It's one of those deals that I'm going to be excited to see it when everybody in the lineup starts clicking. This whole team starts hitting well, we're going to be a really tough team to beat."

Shuck takes the mound: With the White Sox out of pitchers due to Shields' short start and Matt Purke's three innings Tuesday, outfielder J.B. Shuck was given the ninth inning. The left-hander posted a 17-12 record with a 3.87 ERA over 41 games pitched for Ohio State from 2006-08 and made one relief appearance for Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2012, but this outing marked his Major League debut. Shuck allowed one run, but did retire Bryce Harper on a groundout to first. More >

Outfielder Shuck pitches the 9th

"Obviously, we've been on the other end and facing a position player is never easy. It's not even that fun. So I'm sure he was probably not taking it too serious," said Shuck of facing Harper. "But I'll be able to tell my kids that when he's probably in the Hall of Fame some time."

Shuck became the first White Sox position player to pitch since Alexei Ramirez on Sept. 15, 2015, in the ninth inning against the A's. Leury Garcia also pitched in that game.

Strong start from Scherzer: The Nationals' bullpen had to recover from a short outing by Tuesday starter Joe Ross, so Baker hoped to receive a strong and lengthy outing from Scherzer, who delivered just that after being staked to a big lead.

Scherzer goes seven scoreless

"The human reaction is to ease off and relax because you're up big and you feel like it's so easy to win now, but it's just the opposite," Scherzer said. "You have to mentally tighten it up even more and go out there and stay hungry, because it can happen in a heartbeat where hit, hit and then a three-run bomb and you're frustrated with your outing."

Scherzer said he still has a few adjustments he would like to make, but over his last six starts, he is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and 61 strikeouts.

QUOTABLE
"I threw one breaking ball. I think Werth hit it about 150 mph. Thank goodness it was on the ground." -- Shuck, on his repertoire

SERIES OF TROUBLE
Wednesday's setback means the White Sox drop to 2-9-1 in their last 12 series.

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: The Nats will go for a three-game sweep Thursday at 8:10 p.m. ET and hope to get left-hander Gio Gonzalez back on track after three consecutive disappointing outings that has caused his ERA to rise from 1.86 to 3.94.

White Sox: With Carlos Rodon having his start skipped due to neck soreness, Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 3.93 ERA) gets the call for the series finale at U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Gonzalez has not picked up a victory since July 25, 2015, when he was with the Orioles.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.