CLEVELAND -- The inability of the White Sox to score for Jose Quintana struck again on Friday night and snuffed out another chance to sustain momentum.
Fresh off a series victory over Detroit, one of the team’s few positive moments in five weeks, the White Sox offense proved incapable again and left Quintana and Nate Jones with a thin margin for error. Jones hung a slider in the ninth inning and Carlos Santana belted a walk-off solo home run to send the White Sox to a 3-2 loss in front of 27,912 at Progressive Field. The homer occurred only minutes after the White Sox -- who are now 33-34 and 3 1/2 games back of Cleveland -- rallied for a run against Cleveland closer Cody Allen.
“We had some guys on base, had some opportunities,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You just can’t get enough across.
“Even in the ninth it felt like it was coming back there when we had something going and that’s the part that stings.”
What would have been a painful wound was temporarily reduced in the top of the ninth when Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia had consecutive doubles off Allen with one out to tie the score at 2. The big hit that had avoided the White Sox all game finally arrived and saved Quintana from a loss in a seventh consecutive start.
Despite another fantastic performance, Quintana and the White Sox had fallen behind 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth on a one-out RBI double by Jason Kipnis. Despite a 2.63 ERA, the pitcher’s record appeared destined to drop to 5-8 before Garcia’s double.
But the respite only proved temporary as Jones, who recorded the final out of the eighth, started the ninth. After he got ahead of Santana 0-2 with two sliders, catcher Alex Avila called for a high fastball, but Jones shook him off, didn’t bury the slider and it resulted in Santana’s third walk-off homer against the White Sox.
“I shook to that pitch,” Jones said. “So the game was 100 percent on me. I just didn’t execute that pitch.
“(Santana) did what he was supposed to do with it when you leave it over the middle.
“I was trying to back foot a slider. Just left it over the middle.”
The White Sox didn’t execute nearly as well against Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw.
They scored a run in the third inning to tie it at 1 after Adam Eaton tripled with one out ahead of Jose Abreu’s RBI groundout. It was only the fifth run the White Sox have scored in 46 2/3 innings for Quintana after they provided him with 25 in his first seven starts.
But in spite of a solid plan against Bauer, allowing him to run up his pitch count, the White Sox didn’t execute in the clutch and thus continued a cruel trend for Quintana.
Bauer struck out J.B. Shuck to end the second inning with two aboard, one of nine Ks for the right-hander. The White Sox later failed to convert on a one-out double by Melky Cabrera in the sixth as Todd Frazier and Avila grounded out. And Abreu and Frazier both stranded a runner in scoring position in the eighth inning, too.
“That’s frustrating for us, too, probably more so because we all love him to death,” Avila said. “He’s an amazing person, works his ass off and he’s always going out there giving a great effort and always pitching a quality game.
“We just couldn’t get the hit we got in the ninth earlier in the game, myself and Frazier missing a couple of opportunities.”
Those missed chances put Quintana in a precarious position yet again.
Working with great fastball location and offspeed pitches he worked at two different speeds, Quintana had the Indians out of sorts. They pulled ahead 1-0 in the first on Francisco Lindor’s one-out RBI single. From there, however, Quintana mowed the Indians down in order as he retired 13 of the next 14. He pitched out of a seventh-inning jam and made his lone mistake in the eighth when a fastball ran back over the middle and Kipnis doubled home Michael Martinez to put the Indians up 2-1.
Even though he only allowed two earned runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings with six strikeouts, Quintana was in line for the loss.
“Everybody thinks he deserves better, and I’m sure somewhere he would have something like that, but as a teammate he is as well respected in there as anybody,” Ventura said. “It’s a tough one, especially fighting back and getting one in the ninth. Santana is dangerous. We’ve seen him do it before, and he just got one on the barrel.”