<
>

Patient Jose Quintana deserves much better

4h

CHICAGO -- You almost expect Jose Quintana to explode with fury one day, like a pressure cooker with the steam-release valve stuck in the closed position.

For anybody who thinks they are not getting proper backing from their co-workers, Quintana has you beat. By a mile. Maybe two.

One day this will all change. One day Quintana will get the kind of run support his impressive pitching deserves. But that has been the mantra for a few years now and still nothing changes.

In what was one of his more impressive outings of the season, Quintana held the powerful Toronto Blue Jays to just two runs. A team that entered with 462 runs scored, over 70 more than the next closest American League team, was held in check, and yet the Chicago White Sox walked away a 2-1 loser Tuesday.

Run-support is not the pitcher's problem, yet everything to do with Quintana's one-loss record. It's why a movement was started some time ago to stop judging a starting pitcher by how many victories he gets.

Still, 20-game winners are revered in baseball. Quintana would feel like a winner if he just had 20 runs of support in a two-month stretch. Take the left-hander's last eight starts. All of them have been quality from Quintana and he has delivered a 2.70 ERA in that time. And yet he still has two defeats and four no-decisions to show for his effort.

And after each start, Quintana stands in front of his locker to patiently answer any and all questions.

The first on Tuesday was practically an apology for having to ask the same question over and over again. So once again, after pitching so well, does it feel like the result should be different?

"Well, I know I have the same answer," Quintana said. "It was a tough game. I tried to give up not many runs. I'll try next time to not give up any runs. I'll try again to keep my games as close as I can."

There was not an ounce of frustration in the 26-year-old's voice. No indication that he is sick of wasting quality start after quality start on a group of co-workers that is incapable of showing him any love.

In Quintana's first defeat of the season, he gave up nine runs in just four innings of an April outing at Detroit, so he has no gripe there. Since then, though, perhaps all but one of his next seven defeats have been winnable, including Tuesday.

Over those last seven Quintana loses, he has managed to deliver a 3.30 ERA. That number is lower than his solid 3.69 mark on the season. That he is carrying around a 4-8 record at the season's midway point is a crime. He really should be closer to 20 victories than 20 defeats.

"He did a great job; worked both sides of the plate, mixed it up, was changing some speeds," the Blue Jays' John Donaldson said. "What'd he go? Eight innings? He gave up two runs? That's a quality start."

And Donaldson was the one who ended up ruining Quintana's night with a solo home run in the fourth inning that proved to be the difference in the game. It was the All-Star's sixth home run in five games against the White Sox this season, so Quintana shouldn't feel any shame in giving up that long ball.

In back-to-back starts against the St. Louis Cardinals and Blue Jays, Quintana gave up a combined three runs over 14 innings. And he barely beat the Cardinals as the White Sox scored twice to cover the one run he allowed. The offense wasn't so generous against the Blue Jays.

"It's definitely a tough lineup to go through," catcher Tyler Flowers said of Toronto's crop of right-handed heavy sluggers. "Even the guys at the bottom are tough at-bats. They bring other elements with some speed and such in there, so I thought Quintana did a great job. We've got to figure out a way to scratch across more than one run. To hold them to two is pretty impressive."

If Quintana stood on a table in the middle of the White Sox's clubhouse and said, "So what do I have to do to get some support here?" nobody would have blinked an eye. Instead, he just sighed and promised to be better.

"Well I can never (complain) because it's a long season," Quintana said. "I try to do what is best for me every five days. I try to get a win for us every time, just keep going. It's the middle of the season. I think, lets' change it the next start."

At 37-44, the White Sox have exactly the same record they did at the 81-game mark last season. For them to be much more improved than a year ago, it will take more than just scoring runs in Quintana starts. But that would be a start.

"You get to the point where it's just too hard for these guys to try to win 2-1 and their degree of being able to go out there and pitch like that, there's no room for error," manager Robin Ventura said. "So, for these guys, it's not giving them a big lead and they sit there and kind of play with it.

"There's no room. You lose tonight because Donaldson hits a home run. He gave up the one in the first, we get one back to tie it up and they just have a potent lineup. They have a lot of guys who can go deep."

Quintana remained unflappable before, during and after the game. Maybe he might melt down if he saw the White Sox final run tallies in his eight loses. They are, in order: 1, 0, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1. Unpainted picket fences look better.

"We've got to do a better job taking advantage of these performances because they're not going to be able to be as perfect as they have been every time out," Flowers said.