CHICAGO — Nearly four years have passed since James Shields left the Tampa Bay Rays. The results Monday night were familiar to his old team just the same.
Shields pitched six effective innings for his first win in two months, Justin Morneau and Carlos Sanchez each hit a two-run homer and the Chicago White Sox beat the Rays 7-1.
“He mixed (pitches) really well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I mean, you know (the potential) is there because he has been so talented for so long. It’s just kind of unfortunate that he put it together against us tonight.”
Shields (6-18) allowed one run and seven hits, using six strikeouts to help wriggle out of several jams. The right-hander likely assured he would not become the first White Sox pitcher to lose 20 games since Wilbur Wood (16-20) in the 1975 season.
“He was getting strikes early in the count,” said Rays outfielder Corey Dickerson, who reached base three times. “He was able to use his offspeed (pitches) on people to get themselves out.”
The right-hander hadn’t won since July 26, when he pitched scoreless ball into the eighth against the crosstown Cubs. Shields was 0-6 in his previous 10 starts and is 4-11 since a trade to Chicago from San Diego.
“It’s always nice to face your old team and get a win,” said Shields, who began his career with Tampa Bay in 2006.
Morneau and Omar Narvaez each had two hits. Jose Abreu had two hits and an RBI.
Tampa Bay’s Drew Smyly (7-12) allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings in losing for the first time since July 18 at Colorado.
Smyly hurt his cause with a mental lapse in the fourth, when he allowed Todd Frazier to steal third base with one out. Frazier came around on Narvaez’s sacrifice fly to snap a 1-1 deadlock.
“I felt that I pitched better than the box score, but I should be a little more aware,” Smyly said. “Can’t let him steal third there.”
Curt Casali drove in the lone run off Shields with a single in the fourth. Jaff Decker had three hits for Tampa Bay, which hit into four double plays and has dropped four straight and seven of eight.
Four White Sox relievers combined for three scoreless innings, thanks in part to Abreu throwing out Mikie Mahtook at the plate in the eighth.
Morneau homered in the seventh and Sanchez connected in the eighth as Chicago won its third straight.
Tampa Bay needs to win at least two of the final six games to avoid its worst record (66-96) since the 2007 season.
The Rays struck out only six times Monday after becoming just the fifth big league team to strike out 23 or more times in a game in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to Boston on Sunday.
Cash, a backup catcher over eight seasons with five teams, was asked if he thought of picking up a bat himself. He quipped, “I would have fit right in.”
Rays: CF Kevin Kiermaier sat out after being hit by a pitch on the left wrist in the second inning of Sunday’s game. X-rays were negative, and Cash said he was just “giving Kiermaier a day.”
White Sox: OF Adam Eaton missed his third game after crashing into a padded outfield wall in Cleveland on Friday night. Eaton said “the biggest thing was the hip.” There’s no timetable for his return. … IF Tyler Saladino (back discomfort) sat out his fourth straight game.
Tampa Bay RHP Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.16) faces Chicago ace lefty Chris Sale (16-9, 3.19) on Tuesday night. Sale will try to match his career high of 17 wins set in 2012, but he’s just 2-7 since peaking at 14-2 after beating Houston on July 2.