White Sox

Jose Quintana rebounds, White Sox snap five-game losing streak

Jose Quintana rebounds, White Sox snap five-game losing streak

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — He wasn’t perfect, but Jose Quintana looked calm and collected on Tuesday night.

And a confident Quintana is exactly what White Sox Land needed right now.

Quintana was highly effective against the Tampa Bay Rays as he bounced back from the worst back-to-back outings of his career. The left-hander’s performance as well as a strong effort from the bullpen and solo home runs from Avisail Garcia and Todd Frazier led the White Sox to a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in front of 14,590 at Tropicana Field. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the White Sox.

“(Quintana) turned it up a notch,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He didn’t want to come out. He wanted to stay in there. But he gave us a great outing.”

One of the most consistent pitchers in baseball the past four seasons, Quintana’s previous two outings raised serious questions after he got hit hard in consecutive turns. He allowed 15 earned runs in a combined seven innings against Arizona and Boston, which raised his earned-run average from 3.92 to 5.60.

But more than the damage against Quintana, it was how it happened that had everyone puzzled. Known for his pinpoint command and ability to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate, Quintana made location mistakes right and left and opposing hitters took advantage.

Anything left over the middle was hit hard as Quintana gave up 18 hits in the two games.

He was upset enough with himself after he took the loss in last Tuesday’s showdown with Chris Sale to say he was “embarrassed” by the performance. He also said he needed to review footage of what he was doing, something he rarely does.

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All week, teammates said they thought Quintana would bounce back, that he was merely passing through a difficult period.

“He’s always pitching good,” said Yolmer Sanchez, who led off the game with a controversial home run off Chris Archer. “A lot of people go through a tough time, but he’s going to be good. He always pitches like he pitched. We know what he can do.

“He always had good numbers, but I know he can be better than that. We have a lot of confidence in him.”

As evidenced by his 114 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, Quintana didn’t have it easy. But he also didn’t allow much in the way of hard contact as he spotted his fastballs low and on the edges. Of the 13 balls put into play against Quintana, only four had better than a 25 percent chance of being a hit (three were), according to BaseballSavant.com. Only one of those four was hit in the air, which is in sharp contrast to the four combined homers Quintana allowed over his previous two starts.

Quintana allowed a run on two hits in the first inning but settled in from there. He began to spot his fastball, which induced a number of grounders or weak pop outs. But Quintana also ran a high pitch count, reaching 80 after four innings. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with a strikeout of Logan Morrison, one of four called third-strikes he earned. He also got another big out in the sixth when he struck out Rickie Weeks with two in scoring position before giving way to the bullpen. Chris Beck escaped a bases-loaded jam with a double play ball.

The effort marked a much-needed step in the right direction for Quintana, who allowed a run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked four, one intentionally.

“Command,” Quintana said. “Hit my spots better. Threw a lot of fastballs today. Confident in all my pitches. I needed this outing (to be) better than the last ones and to get a ‘W’ for my team. That’s most important here. But different – fastballs were good. And hit the corners better.

“I had a couple of walks to leadoff innings. But I pitched good in situations. I think that was the best point for this game.”

The bullpen followed Quintana with 3 2/3 strong innings. Beck rebounded from a 3-0 count against Jesus Sucre to induce the inning-ending double play. Dan Jennings, Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson combined to record the final nine outs.

The White Sox offense did a good job adding on after Garcia put them ahead for good in the seventh with a 434-foot drive to left off Chris Archer. Garcia ripped a 1-0 slider from Archer, his moonshot exiting the bat at 112 mph.

The White Sox weren’t done yet as Jose Abreu gave them a 3-1 lead with a two-out RBI single in the eighth off Tommy Hunter. Frazier’s 430-foot solo shot banged off the back wall in center and opened up a 4-2 lead.

Sanchez opened the game with a 368-foot drive to center off Archer that clearly hit something, causing the ball to bounce in the opposite direction. Though Sanchez stood on third, umpires originally ruled the ball a home run and replay officials said the call stood.

“I didn’t see if the ball hit something,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know, but it was good for me.”

White Sox get lesson in why they need their own Justin Verlander type to finish off rebuild

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USA TODAY

White Sox get lesson in why they need their own Justin Verlander type to finish off rebuild

Who will be the White Sox version of Justin Verlander? Their version of Jon Lester?

The big-name veteran brought in from outside the organization to be the cherry on top of a rebuilding effort and push things into contention mode. Who will Rick Hahn & Co. bring in to play that role on the South Side?

The White Sox got a firsthand lesson in why such a player is a necessity, dominated in every sense by Verlander on Tuesday night in Houston. Verlander, who long tormented the White Sox when he played for the division-rival Tigers, took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and finished with one run, one hit and one walk allowed in eight dazzling frames. Jose Abreu's solo homer that broke up the no-hitter in the seventh was the one moment on the evening in which Verlander looked human.

That's the kind of thing Verlander's been doing since the Astros traded for him during the 2017 season, which ended with them winning the World Series. They might do it again this year, the best team in baseball halfway through this four-game series against the White Sox. And he's a big reason they've stayed atop the list of championship contenders the last two years.

Verlander's acquisition was a little different than that of Lester on the North Side of Chicago. The Cubs needed to inject some legitimacy into their rebuilding project and got it by giving Lester, who knew Theo Epstein and his front office from the Boston days, a ton of money to top their rotation. The Astros needed a similar push from one of the game's best pitchers, and they got it by trading for Verlander in a waiver deal with the Tigers. But Verlander accomplished the same goal for the Astros that Lester did for the Cubs. Even in 2019, they're two of the more reliable arms around.

The White Sox might not be ready to vault into contention mode on Day 1 of the 2020 season. Michael Kopech's next start will be just his fifth as a big leaguer. Dylan Cease won't have much more than a month or two of big league experience. Eloy Jimenez has already missed a month of developmental time. Luis Robert will likely be getting his first taste of the majors.

But adding a Verlander type to that group could make a huge difference.

Now, Verlander is one of the best pitchers ever, plain and simple, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. To suggest that kind of pitcher will be available this offseason is perhaps unrealistic. Verlander was set to be among a loaded free-agent class before he signed an extension to stay with the Astros. He wasn't alone, and that thought-to-be-loaded free-agent class is now significantly less loaded. But there are still options, and perhaps more than ever a trade looks like it might be the way to go. If the White Sox do have a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher on their wish list, Verlander's teammate and Wednesday night's scheduled starter, Gerrit Cole, is on track to be among the available free agents.

So, too, is Madison Bumgarner, who more closely fits the mold of accomplished guys like Verlander and Lester. Bumgarner's got an unparalleled amount of postseason success, but he comes with plenty of questions, too. He pitched in just 38 combined games in 2017 and 2018, and while longevity hasn't been an issue this season — he's failed to go six innings in only one of his 10 starts — effectiveness has been an issue. He's got a 4.21 ERA through 62 innings. His highest single-season ERA prior to 2019 was 3.37 in 2012.

It doesn't have to be Bumgarner. And maybe it doesn't even have to be a pitcher. The White Sox have a list of potential starting-pitching options that includes Kopech, Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and others. The Cubs and Astros couldn't craft rotations of homegrown players. The White Sox might be able to, though considering the injuries that have plagued those young arms and the current lack of major league ready starting-pitching depth, a big-time starting-pitching addition would really fortify things.

It could also add that kind of legitimacy that Lester brought to the Cubs. Get one big name to come aboard a still-emerging group, and that could draw more talent that could really kick things into high gear.

There might be no one way to do a successful rebuild, but if the White Sox want to follow the template the Astros and Cubs have used to win championships in recent years, a Verlander type would be a good way to go about doing that. The opportunity has to exist, but you'd have to imagine it's an opportunity the front office will be looking for this winter.

Certainly they're already motivated to do just that. Watching Verlander cut through their lineup Tuesday night should back that motivation up.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

Connor McKnight, Kevin Fishbain and Jay Cohen join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

0:00- Ozzie Guillen joins the panel as the White Sox get ready to face the Astros. The guys discuss if there are any similarities between the Astros rebuild and the one the Sox are currently in.

4:00- The White Sox are running out of starting pitchers. Should they bring up Dylan Cease now?

7:00- Yu Darvish allowed 3 runs over six innings with 3 walks and 7 strikesouts. Is that considered a good start for him?

11:00- The Bears continue to unveil their top 100 players. Khalil Mack is 60th after just one season. The guys debate that and the fact that Jim McMahon is 32 spots ahead of Jay Cutler.

16:00- Scott Paddock joins Kap to talk about the fight in the NASCAR All-Star race and to preview a big few weeks at Chicagoland Speedway.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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