Shields' win gets big assist from Eaton

Shields' win gets big assist from Eaton

CHICAGO -- Adam Eaton's 11th outfield assist of the season, which came in the fifth inning of the White Sox 9-6 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, quite possibly saved the game for starter James Shields.

But his pinpoint throw from right field, which nailed Kurt Suzuki at the plate and cut off the tying run in what was then a 2-1 game, wasn't occupying his mind after his team returned to the .500 mark.

"I should have caught the ball, to be honest with you," Eaton said. "I was a little upset I didn't do that."

When you are having a near-perfect defensive season, it's acceptable to expect perfection with every effort.

The start of this sequence came on Eduardo Nunez's deep fly ball to right with Suzuki on first base and one out. Eaton moved back quickly but got his pinky caught on the chain link part of the fence as he went up for the ball.

Eaton wasn't able to make the catch as he crashed into the fence, and the ball bounced back toward the infield. At that point a little defensive teamwork with center fielder J.B. Shuck helped Eaton finish the play.

"Shucky talked to me there. He told me, 'Front, front, front' and yelled that as loud as he could so I could locate the ball," Eaton said. "To be honest with you, I thought it was a home run when I went up for it. I just happened to get the ball and saw Nunez was kind of cutting off Suzuki.

"He wanted the triple apparently. So I just grabbed the ball and in kind of frustration threw it as hard as I could, and it worked out all right."

Nunez ended up about one step behind Suzuki, who had to hold up to see if Eaton could make the play. Eaton's throw to catcher Dioner Navarro arrived right before Suzuki, who didn't even have a chance to slide. Shields then escaped the inning unscathed on Robbie Grossman's fly ball to Eaton.

"You've got to respect the effort level, especially taking the hit against the fence there," Shields said. "Adam plays hard every day. He takes pride in his defense, which is awesome. I don't exactly know what happened with Suzuki. I don't know if he stopped, but it was a great throw and a big out."

"Defensively, it's just bringing a good focus and good effort every night," Eaton said. "Being able to bring that every night has been key for me. If I'm not leaving my mark offensively, hopefully I can leave a mark defensively. It helps me sleep at night."

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