CHICAGO -- James Shields will not lose 20 games this season, and the White Sox (75-81) still have a chance to finish at .500 by virtue of their 7-1 victory over the Rays Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field. It was a third straight win for the White Sox, who had lost six in a row prior to this current streak.
Shields had not won since July 26, when he hurled 7 2/3 scoreless innings at home against the National League Central champion Cubs, and now has a 6-18 overall mark with one start remaining. Since that late-July outing, Shields posted an 0-6 record with a 9.46 ERA over 10 starts moving into the opener of this four-game set. The one-time Rays' ace yielded one run on seven hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two. He kept the baseball in the ballpark after allowing 18 home runs in his last 45 2/3 innings.
"Early in the game, they did a good job of working the count," Shields said. "I got ahead of hitters and was throwing some really good pitches, actually, that they were just spitting on and working the count. They got my pitch count up early, but I ended up grinding it out."
As a member of the Rays, Shields won 87 regular season games with a 3.89 ERA in seven seasons and produced two postseason wins for Tampa Bay. Drew Smyly fell to 7-12, as the White Sox got to the southpaw for three runs on seven hits over five innings and 97 pitches. Chicago scored in the first on Justin Morneau's sacrifice fly and added single runs in the fourth and fifth, before Morneau put the White Sox in control with a two-run blast in the seventh. Carlos Sanchez's two-run blast to left in the eighth completed the scoring.
"Obviously not the best representation today of what we think we're capable of," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Just a frustrating game on offense.
"We had some opportunities that we didn't make the most of, for sure. They seemed to make some big pitches when it mattered. Got some crucial double-play balls that quieted our offense down a little bit. But ultimately, they took advantage of it and we did not."
The Rays had nine hits but finished 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED One vs. 100: With his line drive single off the glove of Miller at first with two outs in the fifth, Abreu raised his RBI total to 98. Abreu recorded 107 RBIs during his rookie season and picked up 101 in 2015. He sits five homers short of 30 with six games to play.
200-200 club: When Morneau homered in the seventh off Enny Romero, he stroked the 200th home run of the season against Rays pitching. That made the Rays the 22nd team in Major League history to hit 200 home runs and surrender 200 in the same season. The Mariners have also reached the 200-200 club this season.
Make no mistake: Shields pitched around his own throwing error in the fourth to keep the Rays at one run scored. He snared a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Alexei Ramirez and had Curt Casali caught off second but proceeded to throw the ball over the heads of shortstop Tim Anderson and second baseman Carlos Sanchez. With runners on first and third, Shields didn't give in, striking out Bobby Wilson and Forsythe.
"Yeah, frankly, that's unacceptable, to be honest with you," Shields said of his error. "I need to make that play. It probably cost me about 15 pitches, but I ended up striking the next two guys out. It didn't really hurt me too bad." More >
Spunky Decker: The Rays selected Jaff Decker from Triple-A Durham on Sept. 16 to begin his second stint of 2016 with the team. While the outfielder entered the game 0-for-8 since joining the team, he demonstrated what kind of spark plug he could be in the fourth. With one out, he singled to right off Shields, stole second, and scored on Casali's single to right to tie the game at 1. Decker added two singles to give himself a 3-for-5 night.
"It was good to see," Cash said. "Seems like he's been a little passive at the plate leading up to today. And him and Mikie [Mahtook] both had some productive at-bats and got some hits, and hopefully there's a carryover effect into tomorrow from that."
"In hindsight, I just wish I would have made the decision to go and not pause in between, and hesitate. I got caught in a bad position I shouldn't have been." -- Mahtook, on being indecisive when trying to score from third and getting thrown out at home in the eighth
"We want to end on a positive note, and everybody wants to meet their goals. Just telling somebody baseball is the most individualistic team sport there is. You have to have your individual goals just like your team goals and our team goals are out the door right now. You don't want to play for yourself, but at the same time play for your pitcher a little bit and help him out." -- Frazier, on a potential 40-homer, 100-RBI season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Smyly took his first loss since July 18 at Colorado, snapping a string of 11 starts without taking a loss. During the 12-game stretch, he has gone 5-1 with a 3.73 ERA.
"It's a tough lineup," Smyly said. "They have some good right-handed hitters over there. ... I felt like I pitched better than the box score."
QUITE A TURNAROUND
Sanchez was 10-for-76 entering the month of September, with three extra-base hits. He is hitting .327 (18-for-55) with five doubles, three home runs, 15 RBIs and eight runs scored in September.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays:Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.16 ERA) will make his fifth and final start of 2016. The right-hander got roughed up in his last outing against the Yankees, lasting just 1 1/3 innings. Still, he's shown well in his return from Tommy John surgery and he hopes to end the season on a high note.
White Sox:Chris Sale (16-9, 3.19) continues his American League Cy Young quest with what could possibly be his second-to-last start of the 2016 season. Sale was hit hard in Philadelphia last Wednesday but had worked at least eight innings in six straight previous starts. Sale's six complete games lead all of baseball.