CLEVELAND -- The offspeed stuff wasn’t there and his pitch count soared but Jose Quintana had run support and a hot bullpen at his manager’s disposal.
The starting pitcher and catcher Tyler Flowers quickly changed strategies and did enough to pass the baton as the White Sox downed the Cleveland Indians 4-1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night. Jose Abreu homered and the trio of Dan Jennings, Zach Duke and David Robertson struck out eight in three innings as the White Sox earned their third straight victory.
“Q was erratic,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It wasn’t really the control that you’d like to see. But he battled.
“He’s a strong kid, he battles and at least gets you to the point where you can get the bullpen in there. He bobbed and weaved as well as he could.”
Quintana said the cool, crisp air gave him trouble as he couldn’t grip the ball how he would have liked. More than a handful of times, Quintana appeared to lick his left hand to get a better feel.
While he had no trouble throwing his fastball, Quintana struggled to locate his curve, only throwing it for eight strikes in 24 tries.
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“I feel uncomfortable with my hands,” Quintana said. “I try to fight every inning and keep the game close and get the win.
“A little bit dry. I feel a little bit dry, but this is the first month of the year. It’s a little bit cold. No matter what happens you try to do your job good.”
Poor offspeed command — he went to seven three-ball counts in 23 batters — and a Conor Gillaspie error didn’t help matters. Gillaspie’s third-inning miscue meant Quintana needed to throw 11 extra pitches to get out of the frame. Quintana had thrown 63 pitches through three innings.
That’s when he and Flowers switched plans and went with a more aggressive fastball-based approach. Following a two-out RBI double by Ryan Raburn in the fourth inning that cut the White Sox lead to 3-1, Quintana retired seven straight. He needed only eight pitches to retire the side in order in the fifth inning and set down Cleveland’s 3-4-5 hitters in the sixth.
Of the 104 pitches thrown by Quintana — who allowed an unearned run and three hits with two walks and six strikeouts in six innings — 70 were fastballs.
“Really nice job with not all his weapons,” Flowers said. “That’s a sign of a very good pitcher and he’s always been more of a command guy, but he’s been a command guy with all of his pitches. When that happens you expect six, seven out of him and a run or less. Saying that, today was even more impressive just really relying on fastball command and the occasional wrinkle in there.”
Quintana had plenty of help.
As Duke noted, the bullpen is “on a good roll.”
Jennings pitched around a two-out walk and an Alexei Ramirez two-base error to keep the lead at three runs in the seventh. Duke struck out the Indians’ 2-3-4 hitters in order in the eighth and Robertson did the same in the ninth.
The offense gave Quintana some early wiggle room with which to work.
Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera opened the game with consecutive singles off Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, who was knocked out of the contest when he was struck by a liner off the latter’s bat. Cabrera’s line drive glanced off Carrasco’s glove and struck the pitcher on the jaw sending him to the ground immediately.
Carrasco didn’t move for several minutes before he was carted off the field. The Cleveland pitcher went to a local hospital where X-rays were negative and he showed no symptoms of a concussion or head injury and was being treated for a jaw contusion.
The White Sox took advantage of the situation as Adam LaRoche had an RBI groundout to make it 1-0 and Avisail Garcia’s two-out single off Zach McAllister gave them a two-run advantage.
Flowers made it 3-0 in the fourth with a two-out RBI single, one of two hits and Abreu regained the three-run lead with a 387-foot homer off Nick Hagadone in the fifth.
“I’m happy with this outing, and tomorrow I will prepare for my next start,” Quintana said. “I feel this is a new start for us.”