A day after the White Sox offense was held scoreless for the fifth time this season, starting pitcher Jose Quintana barely made it out of the first inning.
The left-hander gave up hits to the first five Royals batters and this one was essentially over 10 minutes after it started. All five of those hits were cashed in for runs and the White Sox were never able to make a game of it.
The White Sox continue to alternate positive bursts with short runs of uneven play, which really isn’t unlike a team in their current remodeling stage. The White Sox have a 33-35 record, and drawing a line to track their ups and downs of late would resemble an old-fashioned hospital heart monitor.
The good news for the White Sox is that even teams like the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, who were supposed to be the class of the division, are riding the same execution roller coaster. The problem this weekend is that the Royals are on an impressive upswing.
A bunched-up division means that everybody, including the White Sox, will have some chance at sniffing the American League Central lead.
“Yeah, I expect it to continue on,” White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said about the tight division race. “I expect us to stay in there and keep playing good ball. With the exception of one bad inning and their pitcher seemed to be pretty on today, too, we continued to battle. It just wasn’t in the cards for us today. [As long as] we’re continuing to give the effort throughout entire games, I’m going to bet on us.”
All five teams in the division are bunched with 3½ games of each other. In the other two AL divisions, the first-place team entered Friday that many games clear of the team in second.
“It’s good baseball,” center fielder Adam Eaton said. “Definitely it’s good baseball. It shows the depth of the division and we are excited to be in the mix and we continue to work hard and hopefully we can say that in September.”
An up-and-down ride from Quintana wasn’t what was expected. The left-hander has been a hard-luck pitcher in recent years, with that never more clear than two starts prior, when five unearned runs cost him a victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the two starts since, Quintana has given up a combined 10 runs on 15 hits over 10⅓ innings.
“When I see a lot of fly balls the first two innings I know the ball is high and I try to keep the ball down,” Quintana said. “The first inning with my changeup it felt a little bit hard, similar to the last games. After that it was working.”
Quintana did retire 15 of the final 17 batters he faced, giving hope that he can reverse his recent rough patch, but getting off to slow starts has always been his issue. He might have carried a 0.69 first-inning ERA this year into Friday’s game, but his career first-inning mark of 4.10 shows that bumpy beginnings are a trademark.
“He's had some innings early on that have hurt him before and this one just happened fast,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They were swinging it and they were barreling it up and you look up and there's five runs.”
Quintana is now one more small fire to put out in a season that has delivered its fair share of smoldering hot spots.
“Fight every inning,” Quintana said. “Fight no matter what happens. You never know what happens after that. Maybe you have a chance to come back.”
Quintana was talking about his start, of course, but he could have just as easily been talking about the season.