There’s something going on with the White Sox, especially for a certain pitcher who was used to getting nothing.
For the previous four seasons, Jose Quintana was widely considered to be the unluckiest player in Major League Baseball for his notorious lack of run support and overwhelming amount of late-game misfortune.
But not anymore.
Quintana has won four straight starts for the first time in his career. He hasn’t had a no-decision since his first start of the season.
You can point to the White Sox improved offense and defense. Or believe what Quintana and his teammate Chris Sale have been doing before every Quintana start since 2013:
Pointing to the sky for help.
“We did it to get some runs for him,” Sale said about their pregame dugout ritual. “We do the two claps, we hug it out.”
Then they look to the heavens.
What do they say?
"I pray to God,” Quintana explained. “Saying 'please, please.’”
Yes, it came to this.
Entering this season, in Quintana’s 119 career starts, the White Sox had scored zero runs for him 18 times, one run 26 times, two runs 28 times and three runs 15 times. Put another way, the White Sox had scored three runs or less in 73 percent of Quintana’s starts.
It’s tough to win a ballgame when your offense gets home less than a traveling salesman.
As a result, Quintana, one of the best pitchers in baseball, has been saddled with 53 no-decisions since 2012, seven more than anybody else in baseball during that time. In 2013, he established an American League record with 17 no-decisions. That same year he set a White Sox record with seven consecutive no-decisions. If that’s not enough, Quintana’s seven career starts of seven scoreless innings without earning a win are the most in franchise history.
He and Sale were praying, but for three seasons, their prayers were left unanswered.
“Clearly,” Sale said laughing. “It wasn’t working too hot.”
So others started getting involved.
“One day I'm like, ‘You want some runs?’ Let's get some runs today,’” said first base coach Daryl Boston.
This would be a challenge for both men considering Boston is a former White Sox outfielder who hasn’t played in the major leagues since 1994 and Quintana has no hits and 13 strikeouts in 22 career at-bats.
How would they score runs for the White Sox?
“We have our own secret handshake,” said Boston, who is 53 years-old, but can publically admit to having a secret handshake because this is baseball, and that’s what happens when grown men play and coach a child’s game for a living.
After completing his warm-up throws in the bullpen, Quintana arrives in the White Sox dugout, where Boston is always the first one to greet him.
“He’s getting ready for the game. That gets him going,” Boston said about the Quintana handshake. “That’s the first thing we do.”
Then it’s onto a quick cheer to chase the run drought demons away.
They both face each other and shout, “Pagame all day long!” which in Spanglish means, “Pay me all day long.”
Quintana, who has a contract that’s one of the biggest bargains in baseball, doesn’t want to get paid in cash. He wants something else in return.
“Give me some runs!” Quintana and Boston shout at each other. They often use another word in between “some” and “runs.” You can use your imagination.
But despite Sale and Boston’s pleas to the baseball Gods, Quintana’s run of bad luck merely continued and continued. That was until this season, when more of his teammates started getting involved with their own Jose handshakes, hoping to end his wretched run of unfair defeats.
And it’s become a sight to behold.
Now when he arrives in the dugout moments before each start, you have what has become Quintana Conga Line of body motions, hand gestures and physical theater. It’s become a cross between a broadway show and a Latin night club — all in an effort to bring some energy to the team, change Quintana's fortunes and produce more victories for the White Sox.
Carlos Rodon, a normally reserved starting pitcher, has come out of his shell with Quintana like we've never seen before. The two of them fist-pump, wipe imaginary dust off their shoulders, do half a pitching wind-up, embrace with a bear hug and then jump around in a circle.
Before John Danks was designated for assignment, he and Quintana would pretend to play a video game, do a quick salsa move and then take an imaginary selfie.
“It’s a fun thing to watch,” Sale said. “I was talking to (Tyler) Saladino the other day. I told him to pay attention to everything. You can almost watch the energy being created through the handshakes, the momentum, the chirping, the noise. It’s fun.”
So what did Saladino do? He hopped on board.
"Him and I do a pat, pat (with our hands) and make the sound of a cat. That's ours," Saladino said.
The cat comes from an App the two found when they were in the minor leagues together in 2012.
"There was this little cat App, and you could say something into it in English and it would say it out to you in Spanish. And it was in this weird little high pitched voice. The cat's name was Gatito."
So Quintana and Saladino look at each other, put their thumbs on their cheeks, spread their fingers out wide like a cat with whiskers, and make a screeching cat sound.
Who came up with this?
"I think ours was a little more him," Saladino said.
“His idea," Quintana said. Then he laughed.
With every winning start, more and more of Quintana’s teammates have joined the party.
“He might have a handshake with everybody on the team in the dugout,” Sale said.
How Quintana remembers all of them — and at a rapid fire pace — is anybody’s guess, but you can’t argue with the results — especially when you consider that his four-game winning streak started on April 22nd against Texas.
Remember what happened in that game?
Facing one of the best offenses in baseball, Quintana loaded the bases in the seventh inning. Mitch Moreland drilled a line drive to right field which looked like extra bases and at least two runs.
But it wasn’t.
Adam Eaton raced over and caught the ball. One out. He threw it to first base where Jose Abreu tagged out a dancing Ian Desmond as he tried to get back to the bag. Two outs. Abreu threw home to catcher Dioner Navarro who saw Adrian Beltre caught between second and third. He threw the ball to shortstop Saladino. Prince Fielder broke for home. Saladino tossed the ball to Todd Frazier who placed the tag on Fielder. Three outs. Triple play!
But not just any triple play. It was scored 9-3-2-6-2-5, the first of its kind in the history of major league baseball.
Quintana and the White Sox won the game 5-0.
“If anybody on the field deserves to have that happen for him, it’s Q,” said manager Robin Ventura about Quintana after the victory. “I think it’s a good sign. It’s something he’s earned with what he’s been through.”
And now with an offense, a defense and these berserk antics backing him up for every one of his starts, Quintana is winning — and the curse seems to be lifted.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Sale said. “He deserves it. He works as hard as anybody in there. He’s never had a sour moment, never pointed a finger. I don’t know if anybody has ever come across him that couldn’t like him. If they don’t, then I don’t like them.”
As for Quintana himself, he likes where this is going and believes his prayers are finally being answered.
“Yeah I think so. I hope so yes,” Quintana said. “It's a good thing for us. It's working.”
Even better — Quintana is winning. Finally.