For the first half of Wednesday night, it looked like Jose Quintana would face a familiar challenge.
Before a trio of late home runs pushed the White Sox to a 4-1 win and series sweep of Houston, Quintana had to watch his team’s offense sputter over five scoreless innings against Astros right-hander Vince Velasquez, who made his major league debut in front of 17,455 at U.S. Cellular Field.
While home runs from Adam LaRoche, Geovany Soto and Jose Abreu provided enough support for Quintana, the White Sox have still scored fewer than two runs in half of his 12 starts this season. And that’s nothing new — in 2014, the White Sox scored fewer than three runs in 11 of his 32 starts; in both 2012 and 2013 it happened nine times.
“Pitching into the tough luck he’s had over his career, he has an amazing ability to just stay focused on what he can control,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Attitude-wise, he’s great. He just grinds, he continues to go out and pitch well. And there would be guys that would hang their head and make it difficult in the locker room too if you’re not scoring runs, and he doesn’t do that. He comes in every day, gets his work done, works very hard and stays optimistic and takes care of his business.”
[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox hope Melky Cabrera can build off Tuesday's baby step]
Quintana pitched over two Emilio Bonifacio errors to hold Houston to one run over seven innings of work, scattering six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. But Quintana pitched most of his start with the White Sox losing after Houston took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, even though Velasquez issued three leadoff walks in his five innings of work.
Avisail Garcia wiped out two of those leadoff walks by being thrown out trying to steal second base, and in the first inning Bonifacio, Abreu and LaRoche couldn’t move J.B. Shuck over and in after a leadoff double. But Quintana, pitching with little margin for error, didn’t let what appeared to be another night of scarce support affect him.
“His attitude is outstanding because it doesn’t matter if we are winning or losing the game,” Abreu said through a translator. “He keeps the same attitude with all his outings, and I think that for us that attitude gives us an advantage also. For me he has all my respect.”
[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]
Eventually, the run support showed up. LaRoche’s sixth-inning home run was the equalizer, and Soto’s solo shot put the White Sox ahead in the seventh. Abreu’s two-run homer in the eighth — his second in as many days — provided a comfortable cushion for David Robertson to earn his 13th save in 16 tries.
The win earned the White Sox their second series sweep of the season and fifth win in six tries against the Astros, who are on a seven-game losing streak and clinging to first place in the AL West. Quintana’s ERA dropped to an even 4.00 with his start, and outside of two blips in April and May he’s pitched well this year, even if his 3-6 record might not show it.
But that record, as has been the case for years, is largely the product of the 26-year-old left-hander not receiving much run support. On Wednesday, he got the support he needed — even if it was a little late in being delivered.
“It feels good,” Quintana smiled. “Every time you wait for that. But first you have to deliver a good outing and after that you wait for the support. Tonight we had a pretty good night.”