The comeback is an almost mandatory attribute of a high-quality team.
And though the White Sox didn’t win Saturday, their three comebacks — and the accompanying signs of resiliency — pleased the South Siders following an admittedly tough 7-6, extra-inning loss to the visiting Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.
“You would rather have the win, but I’m really glad how this team competed against them,” catcher Geovany Soto said after the game. “We battled all day long. We come from behind and we keep battling, and it didn’t go our way. But it feels good to share the feel with all these guys in here. They want to play ball and they are competitors.”
Jose Quintana wasn’t at his sharpest Saturday, surrendering three first-inning runs to put his team in an early hole. But Comeback No. 1 followed in the next five frames as the White Sox chipped away against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, scoring on a Melky Cabrera RBI single in the third, an Adam Eaton RBI single in the fourth and an Alexei Ramirez sacrifice fly in the fifth.
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Quintana — whose 5 1/3-inning outing Saturday was his shortest since May 7 — surrendered his fourth and final run in the sixth when Alex Rios and Paulo Orlando hit back-to-back doubles. But then came Comeback No. 2, when in the seventh Ramirez poked his third home run of the season just out over the right-field fence to tie the game at 4.
Resiliency already well established, the White Sox were required to show more after Jake Petricka loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Zach Duke came in, and a sacrifice fly and bases-loaded walk followed, putting the Royals ahead by two. Those two runs, both charged to Petricka, snapped the White Sox bullpen’s 21-inning scoreless streak.
With the dominant Kansas City bullpen in to end things, the White Sox improbably staged Comeback No. 3 off closer Greg Holland. With two outs, Adam LaRoche singled and Ramirez walked ahead of J.B. Shuck’s double to left-center field that scored the two runners and tied the game.
There would be no more comebacks in extra innings as a taxed Dan Jennings, in his fourth inning, gave up the game-winning home run to Lorenzo Cain and the White Sox couldn’t muster anything in the bottom of the 13th.
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But while the game went the wrong way for the White Sox in the end, it was the way it went three times prior that had them looking on the bright side during their postgame comments.
“For these guys we haven't scored a ton, but they battled the whole time there,” Ventura said. “Shucky with a big one at the end. Holland has always been tough on us and to be able to come through and tie it up, we just couldn’t push that extra one across that you needed. We had four (extra) innings to do it and couldn't get anything going.”
Shuck has proven himself mighty clutch so far this season. He has three game-winning hits already, and while Saturday’s double wasn’t one of them, it still was came at a crucial moment with the White Sox down to their last out.
Part of coming back, though, also means that you’re trailing, something that’s not a positive for a team fighting to get out of the American League Central’s cellar. Quintana coughed up another batch of first-inning runs, a continuation of an upsetting trend that has been of extreme detriment to the White Sox. It’s the team’s worst pitching inning by far, with the staff boasting a 6.88 ERA in the first inning following Saturday’s game. South Side pitching has allowed 68 earned runs — 71 runs total — in 89 first innings this season. The next highest number for a single inning is 45 runs allowed in the third inning.
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The early hole has plagued the White Sox, and though they came back multiple times Saturday, Quintana wasn’t too happy to have put his teammates in that position in the first place.
“I think the first inning was slow,” Quintana said. “First inning marked my game. I gave up three runs, and it's hard.”
“It’s part of the game too,” Soto said. “But we need to keep that at a minimum. This team has been playing great baseball the last 15 days. I feel that it’s going to turn around. We’ve been battling, playing some good teams. We’ve been seeing that we are battling and we are having extra inning games and competing right there with them. It’s a matter of getting it together and getting a ‘W.’”
But a season where positives not named Chris Sale have been hard to come by, Ventura & Co. will talk proudly about this one: three comebacks against the American League’s best team. Win or lose, heartbreaking or not, that’s an admirable feat on its own.
“I feel that we take it, try to look at the positive. Tomorrow we have another game,” Soto said. “So, right now, what I’m seeing is we are competing and we are grinding and battling and coming back from being behind, and that’s kind of the way I see it.
“You can see the fight in this team, and you will continue to see it.”