James Shields’ White Sox debut has been a nightmare

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Update (9:17 PM EDT): Shields was pulled after allowing a leadoff single to Rendon to lead off the third inning.

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White Sox starter James Shields made his much-anticipated debut with his new club on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field against the Nationals. It very quickly went off the rails.

After striking out Ben Revere to lead off the ballgame, Shields walked Jayson Werth and yielded a bunt single to Bryce Harper, who beat the shift. Daniel Murphy then drove home a run with a line drive single to right field. Following that, Wilson Ramos hit a 5-3 ground out to plate a second run, and then Ryan Zimmerman cranked out a two-run homer to make it 4-0. Shields was able to get Anthony Rendon to fly out to end the frame.

In the second, Shields continued to unravel, serving up back-to-back solo home runs to Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa to open up the frame. The home crowd continued to boo Shields. Revere and Werth both reached on singles to bring up Harper. Harper worked the count full, then watched a backdoor slider for strike three. The home crowd sarcastically applauded Shields. Shields got Murphy to ground into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, but walked Ramos to load the bases. Mercifully, Zimmerman grounded out weakly to end the inning.

Through two innings, Shields has yielded the six runs on seven hits and a pair of walks with two strikeouts on 79 pitches.

The White Sox acquired Shields from the Padres on Saturday in exchange for Erik Johnson and Fernando Tatis, Jr.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.