MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.
While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.
One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.
Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.
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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith.
Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.
“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”
The White Sox are somehow still afloat. But just barely.
Melky Cabrera’s game-winning 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’s single past Nick Castellanos to score Adam Eaton, who reached base four times. The hit arrived just minutes after Robertson surrendered three solo home runs and blew a victory for Jose Quintana, who may have made his final start in a White Sox uniform.
The White Sox, who entered Sunday with losses in eight of their last nine games, started the day by completing Saturday’s rain-suspended contest with a 4-3 victory over Detroit on Eaton’s two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. The victories kept the White Sox from entirely slipping out of the wild-card race as they remain 6 1/ 2 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays.
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 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. Quintana 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.
It’s no secret the White Sox have struggled to score runs for Quintana since he arrived in the majors in 2012. Even though he owns a career ERA of 3.39, Quintana’s career record remained at 41-42 after David Robertson blew his fourth save in 27 tries. Robertson, who earned the win in the first game of the day, allowed three ninth-inning solo homers.
The sub-.500 record is in large part because the White Sox never seem to score with Quintana 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.
The White Sox didn’t take long on Sunday to wrap up a lengthy Saturday contest that included three rain delays. Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Saturday’s game, too. Avisail Garcia made it count with a single and a stolen base and Eaton singled him in off Justin Wilson for the game-winner.
Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon, and he went out in the most fitting way possible.
At the end of his speech, Griffey Jr. grabbed a hat from under the podium and put it on backwards, rocking his signature look.
Griffey Jr. said in his speech that it was White Sox legend Frank Thomas who pitched the idea and ultimately convinced him.
"You gotta do it," said Thomas, who joined Cooperstown in 2014.
In his 22-year career, Griffey Jr. played half a season with the White Sox in 2008. He had three homers and 18 RBIs in 41 games with the team.