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Shields, Sox optimistic rough debut just a blip

Veteran righty allows 7 runs on 8 hits, including 3 HRs, in just 2-plus innings
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- James Shields struck out Ben Revere looking to officially mark his White Sox debut Wednesday night against the Nationals at U.S. Cellular Field.

That strikeout quickly became the highlight of the start for Shields, who lasted two-plus innings in an 11-4 loss to Washington, marking the White Sox fifth straight setback, 20th loss in 26 games and dropping them under .500 at 29-30 for the first time this season.

Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- James Shields struck out Ben Revere looking to officially mark his White Sox debut Wednesday night against the Nationals at U.S. Cellular Field.

That strikeout quickly became the highlight of the start for Shields, who lasted two-plus innings in an 11-4 loss to Washington, marking the White Sox fifth straight setback, 20th loss in 26 games and dropping them under .500 at 29-30 for the first time this season.

Full Game Coverage

Shields certainly wasn't viewed as the franchise savior when he was acquired from the Padres for Minor Leaguers Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis Jr. and cash considerations Saturday. But the veteran right-hander certainly has to be better than the seven runs he allowed on eight hits, including home runs from Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa.

"Today wasn't a good day. I didn't do my job and I need to do better," said Shields, who threw 32 pitches in the first inning and 47 in the second. "I was kind of all over the place.

"Fastball location wasn't very good. I wasn't getting ahead of hitters, and when I did get the ball over the plate, they hit it out of the yard. Be aggressive with the fastball and get better location with the fastball. When I have good fastball location, all my offspeed pitches are working and everything else is going good."

There was no sign of trouble for Shields during his pregame bullpen session, but that feeling doesn't always translate into game action. He has allowed a Major League-worst 45 home runs since the start of 2015, which can be worrisome in a home ballpark that plays small during the summer months such as U.S. Cellular Field.

Over his last two starts, Shields has given up 17 earned runs on 16 hits in a mere 4 2/3 innings. He has three strikeouts and six walks, with five home runs during that stretch, but the White Sox are optimistic that these two performances aren't truly representative of the veteran hurler.

"Again, you're going to have to be sharper and get your breaking stuff over and locate," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He didn't do that tonight."

"We have a lot of faith in him," White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton said. "We've competed against him for a number of years and we know he's going to be a key piece to our puzzle. What was shown today was not him."

Known as an innings-eater, with nine straight seasons of at least 200 innings and 30 starts, Shields put extra pressure on an already maxed-out bullpen. His short outing eventually had outfielder J.B. Shuck making his Major League debut on the mound, allowing one run in the ninth.

Video: WSH@CWS: Outfielder Shuck pitches the 9th inning

It was a forgettable night for Shields, and another one for the White Sox. But Shields believes better days are ahead on both fronts.

"You never want to come into a new team and expect to do that," Shields said. "Obviously, we're losing games right now, but we've got a good vibe and we're trying to stay positive, and it's going to get better."

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.

Chicago White Sox, James Shields