MINNEAPOLIS — Only in Jose Quintana’s world does Austin Jackson’s potential grand slam hook just outside the foul pole for a long, loud strike.
Of all the sick and twisted ways that Quintana has been denied run support the past few seasons, Monday’s could have qualified as one of the cruelest. Up a run and in search of more, Quintana saw a potential windfall sneak inches past the foul pole for a long strike in the top of the fourth inning.
Fortunately for Quintana, Jackson rebounded with a two-run single off Kyle Gibson that offered enough support to boost the White Sox to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 40,638 at Target Field. Quintana earned his first victory with six strong innings, and David Robertson recorded his third save as the White Sox improved to 5-2. The loss dropped the Twins to 0-7.
“Especially with Q going, seeing something like that, I thought it was even bigger that he gets the hit after that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “When you see it go foul you hope Q has something go his way and it did. That next hit is a big one, that he was able to do it, especially how long everything took in between those pitches.”
The White Sox had never really fared well against Gibson, who entered with a 4-0 mark and a 2.13 ERA against them.
But they made him work starting in the second inning and ran up a high enough pitch count to force Gibson (0-2) out by the sixth.
Brett Lawrie’s one-out RBI single in the second put the White Sox up a run.
Two innings later, they were in search of more when Jackson stepped in with the bases loaded and two outs. For an instant, Jackson appeared to break the game wide open when he ripped Gibson’s 81-mph changeup toward the corner in left. The drive had plenty of height, but hooked madly and just passed to the front side of the pole.
“I saw it start, it had a little topspin on it,” Jackson said. “I saw it start curving toward the foul pole. I still wasn’t really sure if it hit it or not. It just kind of disappeared. Dang.”
Third-base umpire Joe West instantly signaled that Jackson’s drive was a foul ball. Shortly thereafter, West and his crew of umpires conferred on the field. But they didn’t feel the need to look at a replay, and the White Sox ultimately didn’t request it because the ball somehow slipped by without contact.
“If it’s even close, maybe just nicking it, we’re going to look at it,” Ventura said. “But (pregame instructor Mike Kashirsky) said 100 percent it was foul, which to the naked eye it doesn’t look like it could fit in that little sliver without hitting the pole.”
Despite the lengthy delay, Jackson wouldn’t be denied. As soon as he stepped back in, Jackson ripped Gibson’s 2-2 fastball into center for a two-run single and a 3-0 lead.
“You have to re-focus yourself, take a deep breath and realize you still have a job to do,” Jackson said.
Quintana has managed to keep his focus on his next start time and time again despite a notoriously lengthy run of bad luck. With 53 in 121 starts, Quintana has eight more no decisions than any other starter in baseball since 2012.
But it hasn’t kept him from plugging away and continuing to be one of the most consistent pitchers in the majors going on four seasons. Ventura said Quintana never wavers no matter how unlucky he has been, not in the way he pitches, not during his side sessions or even how he acts on a daily basis. Quintana said he simply believes his luck will change and always worries about his next turn instead of overanalyzing his misfortune.
That might have helped him get out of a 29-pitch fourth inning, where it appeared he was squeezed. Miguel Sano walked on a borderline 3-2 pitch to open the inning, and Trevor Plouffe doubled to left. Byung Ho Park took Quintana to a full count when a close 1-2 pitch missed. But ultimately Quintana won that battle with a foul out. Quintana retired Eddie Rosario on an RBI groundout and struck out Eduardo Escobar to keep the White Sox ahead 3-1.
Quintana also pitched out of jams in the second and sixth innings, limiting the Twins to a run and four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
Matt Albers then extended his scoreless streak to 27 1/3 innings over 24 games despite allowing a pair of hits in his only frame. Zach Duke, Nate Jones and Robertson recorded the final six outs.
Todd Frazier also added an insurance run in the ninth with an RBI double. Nobody was more excited than Quintana, especially with the way Jackson responded to his near-homer.
“It was exciting when I thought it was a homer,” Quintana said. “It was a close situation. After that, he came back, made a good swing and brought two runs for us.
“I feel this is the year for no more no decisions and for the team. We are excited. When you come into the ballpark every day, you come in excited for it because you have a new team, the real thing.
“We’ve got to change.”