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White Sox 9, Twins 6: James Shields' first Chicago win delayed, not denied

Miserble effort by bullpen turns laugher into a save situation, but White Sox return to .500 nevertheless

David Banks/Getty Images

James Shields pitched 6⅔ innings of one-run ball while the White Sox offense snapped out of its clutch-hit problem by clobbering Ricky Nolasco and the front end of the Twins bullpen.

Lest White Sox fans get too excited, their team of funburglars still turned an eight-run lead into a save situation within the constraints of the ninth inning. The final frame started with Matt Purke and a 9-1 score, and ended with Nate Jones relieving Dan Jennings and pitching to the tying run at the plate. A flyout to left warded off a complete Royal revival.

The bullpen basically erased the good vibes from James Shields, who had the courtesy to get his bad stuff out of the way immediately. He allowed a homer to Eduardo Nunez on the second pitch of the game to put everybody on edge, then was all like, "Ha, just joshing, guys." That was the only run he allowed, as he scattered seven other hits and a walk while striking out five. He threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of 27 hitters.

He found ways to work past his wobbly moments. In the third, a Joe Mauer double play halted the momentum from two singles to start the inning, preserving a 2-1 lead.

In the fifth, Nunez hit a drive off the wall in right and had an inside-the-park homer on his mind. One problem: Kurt Suzuki was on the bases in front of him. Adam Eaton ran into the wall, but regained composure enough to track the ball down with everything heading toward home plate. He was in position to make a strong throw to Dioner Navarro when Nunez’s heads-down baserunning forced Suzuki to make a break for it, and he was thrown out by 20 feet for Eaton’s 10th assist of the year. A flyout ended that inning.

With Shields catching breaks more than missing bats, it looked like Robin Ventura needed a short leash. Then Shields struck out Mauer with a couple great curveballs to start a 1-2-3 inning, and he lasted until two outs in the seventh, leaving with a warm ovation.

And yet White Sox fans ended the game picking at old scabs:

How did this game bring the Conor Gillaspie-Gordon Beckham collision to mind?

Well, first the White Sox piled the runs on Nolasco. Tyler Saladino hit a solo shot in the fifth to make it a 3-1 game, and then they created some distance with a five-run seventh. Todd Frazier started that inning with a solo shot, Saladino added an RBI single when Nunez whiffed on the hot grounder, Tim Anderson shot a two-run single to right and took second on the throw home, and Eaton chased him home with a single.

Putting the icing on the cake, Frazier led off the seventh with his first double since May 23 and scored on a sacrifice fly to make it a 9-1 game.

Then the bullpen sat on the cake. Ventura wasted no time pulling Purke after the inning started with a double and a five-pitch walk. In came Dan Jennings, who seemed to gain control of the inning with a strikeout and a soft grounder to second. Brett Lawrie, though, decided to make a too-quick flip to short instead of taking a sure out, and it went wide to the bare-hand side of a surprised Anderson to load the bases.

Robbie Grossman singled to make it 9-3, and Frazier traded a run for an out on Juan Centeno’s grounder to first for the second out. One pitch away from a third out, Jennings drilled Danny Santana in the ankle with a slider to reload the bases.

Jennings then walked Trevor Plouffe — the Sox’ league-leading 13th bases-loaded walk of the year -- to make it 9-4, and Max Kepler doubled to bring in two, chasing Jennings from the game and requiring the services of Jones. He threw ball one to Eduardo Escobar, but came back with a couple strikes before a routine flyout to left brought the game to a merciful end.

Purke was optioned to Charlotte after the game. They better not bring up another reliever.

Bullet points:

*Everybody in the White Sox lineup had a hit for the third time this year.

*The Sox went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

*Anderson had his career in a game: a single, a double and three strikeouts.

Record: 39-39 | Box score | Highlights