James Shields makes his first start in more than two months Sunday when the visiting Chicago White Sox try for their 10th victory in the last 11 meetings and a three-game sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays. Shields hopes to get more support from Matt Davidson, who homered for the fifth time in the past six games in Saturday’s 5-2 victory which gave Chicago (31-36) - last in the American League Central, but within striking distance of first - three straight victories and five wins in six games.
Shields sustained a strained right lat April 16, retarding his fast start to the season and sending him to the disabled list for the first time in his 12-year career. “ ... I‘m still getting my arm back in shape. I feel like it’s pretty good right now. I feel pretty solid to go,” Shields told reporters after his final rehab start. Toronto (32-35) continues to spin its wheels as it sits last in the AL East, going 9-9 in its last 18 games. J.A. Happ takes the ball for the Blue Jays after winning his first game of the season last time out, returning to the form that saw him go 20-4 in 2016 and finish an inexplicable sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting.
TV: 1:07 p.m. ET, WGN (Chicago), TVA Sports, Sportsnet (Toronto)
PITCHING MATCHUP: White Sox RH James Shields (1-0, 1.62 ERA) vs. Blue Jays LH J.A. Happ (1-4, 4.31)
Shields was in the process of erasing the memory of a disastrous 2016 season - 6-19 and a 5.85 ERA combined with Chicago and San Diego - when he began 2017 by allowing one run in each of his three starts over a combined 16 2/3 innings. The 35-year-old Californian threw 90 pitches in his final outing at Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday, and allowed five earned runs while striking out 14 in 14 innings over his three rehab starts. Jose Bautista is 10-for-31 with five home runs, eight RBIs, five walks and eight strikeouts versus Shields, who is 12-6 with a 3.28 ERA in 24 starts versus Toronto and 4-3, 4.09 in 10 turns at Rogers Centre.
Happ allowed six hits and one walk while striking out eight in six innings of a 4-0 victory at Seattle on June 11 in his third start since returning from the disabled list after an elbow injury sidelined him the same day Shields sustained his ailment. “I felt strong out there,” the 34-year-old Illinois native, who is 15-6 in starts with six or more days’ rest, told reporters. “I felt like I had probably more life than I had in my first two outings in my fastball today and I still felt strong. That’s a good sign for sure.” Happ is 1-2 with a 3.93 ERA in three starts versus Chicago with Todd Frazier (3-for-10) and Melky Cabrera (2-for-6) each taking him deep.
1. Davidson, who has a team-leading 15 home runs, is 10-for-24 with nine RBIs during his six-game hitting streak.
2. Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson went 0-for-4 on Saturday to snap his on-base streak at 15 games. Donaldson, who made two errors Saturday, is batting .303 in 18 contests since returning from the disabled list.
3. White Sox 1B Jose Abreu has reached base safely in 15 straight games after homering Saturday and is 14-for-34 with nine RBIs and 10 runs scored in his last nine contests.
PREDICTION: Blue Jays 3, White Sox 2