The White Sox are somehow still afloat. But just barely.
Melky Cabrera’s game-winning, one-out single in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon got David Robertson off the hook and helped the White Sox to a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of 30,281 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Cabrera singled past Nick Castellanos to score Adam Eaton, who reached base four times, and give the White Sox their second victory of the day. Eaton’s two-out, ninth-inning RBI single earlier helped the White Sox win a rain-suspended contest 4-3 over the Tigers. Cabrera’s hit arrived just minutes after Robertson surrendered three solo home runs — all with two strikes — and blew a victory for Jose Quintana, who may have made his final start in a White Sox uniform. The victories kept the White Sox from entirely slipping out of the wild-card race as they remain 6.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I love the guys that are in our clubhouse,” Eaton said after the first game. “We’ve got a tight-knit group of guys that really want to fight for each other. To get the big hit and have everyone rush out there, especially with what we’ve had the past couple of days, the whole year has really been a roller coaster both on and off the field.”
The season’s topsy-turvy nature potentially could lead to a trade of mainstays Quintana or Chris Sale, who earlier Sunday was suspended five games for insubordination and destroying team property on Saturday. It has been widely speculated the White Sox could move Quintana before the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline in an attempt to rebuild a roster that general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday has been “mired in mediocrity.” An All-Star and one of the top pitchers in the American League, Quintana and his team-friendly contract could fetch a handsome return were the White Sox to part with him in a deal.
Sunday’s 118-pitch effort displayed exactly why Quintana is an attractive option for a contender as he shut down a Detroit lineup that has given him trouble over the years. Quintana kept the Tigers off balance throughout the effort, never allowing more than one runner to reach base in any inning. He faced two over the minimum through five innings and struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the sixth after he surrendered a two-out double to Jose Iglesias.
Though he started the inning at 107 pitches, Quintana returned in the seventh and recorded two more outs before he allowed a bloop-base hit to Justin Upton. Nate Jones struck out Mike Aviles to end the inning.
Quintana allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four. He also lowered his earned-run average to 2.97.
“He’s been helping through the long run and if he gets traded he’s going to help whoever gets him,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “But I think he’s going to be a great part of this team for many years to come.”
That would give the White Sox plenty of chances to make up for all the heartbreak they’ve caused Quintana over the years. Sunday’s no-decision was his major-league leading 56th since 2012.
It’s no secret the White Sox have struggled to score runs for Quintana since he arrived in the majors. Even though he owns a career ERA of 3.39, Quintana’s career record remained at 41-42 after Robertson blew his fourth save in 27 tries. Robertson, who earned the win in the first game of the day and also pitched before Saturday night’s game was suspended, allowed solo homers to Castellanos, Tyler Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Quintana’s sub-.500 record is in large part because the White Sox never seem to score with him on the hill. This season, Quintana ranked 126th out of 136 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs per start headed into Sunday.
But the White Sox followed Eaton’s lead. Less than 45 minutes after he won the opener, Eaton singled in the bottom of the first and scored on a two-out RBI single by Jose Abreu. An inning later, Eaton took advantage of singles by Dioner Navarro and J.B. Shuck went he lined a three-run homer with two outs off Anibal Sanchez to give the White Sox a four-run lead.
The four runs scored for Quintana marks the team’s second-highest output for one of his starts this season.
But it wasn’t enough until Cabrera came through against Bruce Rondon with two outs. Eaton led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on Tim Anderson’s sac bunt. Cabrera then singled on the first pitch from Rondon to produce the game-winner.
“I'm proud of the guys for what they did over the weekend and how they handled it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “All of them reached down for the ball. They all wanted to be in there, so I'm proud of them for that. Robbie is disappointed. It's the first time I've seen that one, but I don't know if it was that he was out of gas. Probably some poor pitches and a day like today, you get it up in the air and it's gone.”