White Sox

David Robertson's blown save denies Jose Quintana win No. 10

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David Robertson's blown save denies Jose Quintana win No. 10

Despite his consistent, durable pitching, Jose Quintana still hasn’t won 10 games in a season. On Thursday, that baffling statistic had everything to do with David Robertson’s blown save and nothing to do with how the 26-year-old left-hander threw.

Oakland Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler’s go-ahead three-run home run off Robertson in the top of the ninth dealt the White Sox a 4-2 loss in front of 12,406 fans at U.S. Cellular Field. Quintana was in line for what would’ve been his 10th win of the season before Robertson blew his seventh save in 36 tries this year.

“I’m just furious with myself,” Robertson said. “I just screwed up another win for one of our starters who pitched his (expletive) off. And I keep (expletive) doing it.”

Quintana turned in his 23rd quality start of the season — the second-highest total for an American League starter, only behind Houston’s Dallas Keuchel — by limiting Oakland to one run on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts over seven innings of work. He’s never won more than nine games in a season despite a career 3.51 ERA in 720 innings entering Thursday.

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Instead, Quintana’s major league tenure has been defined by the 50 no-decisions he’s been saddled with, including Thursday’s.

“I never feel (like I have) bad luck,” Quintana said. “It’s part of the game, it happens. (You) try to continue. Sometime that’ll change.”

Quintana’s lack of wins, for the most part, isn’t his fault. The White Sox are averaging 3.63 runs of support for him this year, slightly lower than 2014’s average (3.84) and 2013’s (3.73).

“We know he's a good pitcher,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don't question that at all. Whether he's going to get some run support, that's the other question. Going out there, he's the same every day, he brings it every day. He's just very consistent about how he goes about his work, how he pitches, attitude, all that stuff that you'd like to see he does that every day. He doesn't hang his head on things like this, he knows guys are out there trying.”

Robertson’s disastrous ninth inning began with Brett Lawrie’s one-out double and an ensuing Danny Valencia single. Butler — who entered Thursday with the fifth-worst WAR among qualified hitters — then served an 0-1 cutter deep to right, with Avisail Garcia leaping to near robbing it. Garcia caught the ball in the webbing of his glove, but it was dislodged into the right field bullpen when he slammed into the fence.

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Over the last three seasons, Quintana has the 10th-most fWAR, racking about 13 WAR through consistent effectiveness over 200-inning seasons (Quintana is 10 innings away from reaching the 200-inning mark for the third straight year). But for whatever tough-luck reason, he hasn’t had the same success racking up wins in the old-school baseball sense.

“Q deserved that one, this team deserved this one,” Robertson said. “I did a terrible job. … He’s one of the hardest workers on this team. He gets a quality start almost every time he takes the ball. You can’t say enough about the guy.

“His record should be better. I can think of a couple of occasions and now I’ve messed one up for him again. It’s frustrating for me. I’ve got to be better.”

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.