CHICAGO - On the bright side for James Shields and the White Sox, there's nowhere to go but up from here.
The Nationals are putting a hurting on Shields in his White Sox debut, pounding out six runs on seven hits (three of them homers) in two innings to open up a commanding 6-0 lead at U.S. Cellular Field.
Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa all homered in their first at-bats, the latter two prompting the crowd to boo their recently acquired veteran right-hander. Shields, just picked up from the Padres over the weekend, is owed a mere $27.5 million over the next 2 1/2 years.
Zimmerman's homer, a two-run shot to left, continued his torrid resurgence at the plate. Even with a three-day absence following the birth of his second daughter last week, he's hitting .341 with four homers over his last 11-plus games.
Drew and Espinosa hit their homers back-to-back to open the top of the second, each going deep to right. Espinosa now has hit six homers in his last 12 games.
Two innings in, every member of the Nationals lineup has either reached base safely or driven in a run, except for Anthony Rendon. It took Shields 79 pitches to make it that far.
Max Scherzer, meanwhile, has retired all six Chicago batters he has faced on a total of 28 pitches.
Update: It's 7-0 Nats after four innings. Shields was allowed to take the mound again for the top of the third, promptly gave up a leadoff single and then was yanked to a chorus of boos. That runner came around to score, so Shields wound up on the hook for all seven runs in two-plus innings of work. Not good. Scherzer, however, has been very good. He retired the first nine batters he faced before Adam Eaton doubled to lead off the fourth. That's it for the White Sox so far, though.
Update: It's still 7-0 Nats after seven innings. They are truly playing out the string here. Scherzer continues to dominate, his pitch count at 97. The White Sox are using up every reliever at their disposal.
Update II: Make it 10-0 after Jayson Werth's three-run homer in the top of the eighth. Which means the Nats have scored 10 runs in three straight games for only the second time in club history. (The 2012 squad did it as well.)
Update III: It's over. Final score: 11-4 Nats. They tacked on a run in the top of the ninth off J.B. Shuck, who is not a pitcher by trade. The Sox finally broke through in the bottom of the ninth off Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez, who are pitchers by trade.