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White Sox: James Shields Pitching Important Game Against Red Sox

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Jun 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher James Shields (25) and Jose Abreu (79) meet at the mound during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher James Shields (25) and Jose Abreu (79) meet at the mound during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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James Shields looking for first win in White Sox uniform on Thursday against Red Sox; White Sox vying for sweep

James Shields has been awful for the White Sox in his first three starts. With an 0-2 record and an ERA of 21.81, he needs to clearly improve. Thursday’s series finale versus the Red Sox is going to be critical for Shields, for two reasons. First, the White Sox are looking for a sweep of the Red Sox and move back over .500. Second, he needs to regain his confidence.

Although Shields has faced the Red Sox many times in the past, it would be meaningless to bring those numbers up mostly due to the fact that the majority of those starts were before he began to decline. Shields has not been the same since he left the Kansas City Royals after 2014, and his innings drop last season (from 227 IP to 202.1 IP from ‘14-15) is an indicator of that. Expect another innings pitched drop-off from Shields in 2016, and when you consider the fact that he was once among the inning-pitched leaders in the league, this is not a good trend.

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While that is just part of the concern, the bigger issue for Shields is the Red Sox offense. They have scored 398 runs this season according to ESPN.com, which is the most of any team in the major leagues. Including runs scored, they lead the majors in nine major categories, and on top of that Shields will be facing Boston at Fenway Park. Fenway Park is not an easy park to pitch in, considering the fact  the Green Monster stands just 310 feet away from home plate down the left field line.

If Shields is going to win in the series finale, he is going need better control and command of his pitches. He has walked 9 batters in 8.2 IP so far as a member of the White Sox, and one batter per inning isn’t going to cut it.  It seems as though Shields either can’t get the ball over, or he can’t locate it when he does. Assuming that changes, Shields has a better chance to keep the Sox in the game.

Next: Jason Benetti Calling Game for ESPN

Overall, Shields needs to become the pitcher the White Sox traded for. I realize the fact that even if he bombs tomorrow, there is still a lot of time left for both he and the White Sox. However, the longer he stays in the funk, the harder it will be to regain his confidence. If Shields can help extend the Sox win streak to four headed into the series against the Blue Jays on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, it will go a long way to helping him regain his confidence. If not, we had better hope he doesn’t become John Danks II.

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