CLEVELAND — Jose Quintana secured only the second winning record of his career on Saturday night and he did it without the use of the changeup and curveball.
The All-Star pitcher ditched his offspeed stuff early and managed to rebound from a poor start as the White Sox snapped a six-game losing streak with an 8-1 victory over the first-place Cleveland Indians in front of 32,088 at Progressive Field. Working mainly with an effectively wild fastball, Quintana, who has only one start left, improved to 13-11 with six innings of one-run ball against the first-place Indians. Six different White Sox hitters drove in a run in support of Quintana.
“You really don’t see him like that too often,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He just gritted through it. He has a lot of heart in him to be able to keep battling through.
“Just not as smooth really the whole time through there. He grinded it out, got us to a point where we could score some runs and separate. He deserves one of these.”
Quintana didn’t look like he could buy an out in the early going as he struggled with command.
Similar to his last start in Kansas City, Quintana was missing by a lot, as much as a foot in some instances, according to catcher Alex Avila. He threw strikes on only six of 21 combined curveballs and changeups, which led to three walks in the first two innings and twice facing the bases loaded.
Even so, Quintana nearly managed to escape unscathed. He induced an inning-ending double play in the first off Carlos Santana’s bat to keep the White Sox ahead 2-0. And, after he allowed an RBI single to Rajai Davis in the second, got Jason Kipnis to ground out with runners on the corners to maintain a 2-1 advantage.
“Best adjustment was to try and throw first pitch for a a strike,” Quintana said. “I started a little slow … First inning I missed the spot too much especially with the fastball. After that I made the adjustment.”
The adjustment included working almost entirely with the fastball, even though it also had a bunch of run to it. But Avila said that worked in Quintana’s favor as it induced a number of pop outs.
Whereas Quintana looked vulnerable in the first two innings, he looked infallible over his final four.
He retired 13 of the last 15 hitters he faced, including nine on pop outs or weak fly balls. Quintana pitched around a pair of doubles in the process and only allowed a run and six hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
“The way he’s pitched, he definitely deserves to have a lot more wins,” Avila said. “But like I told him before, there’ll be a year where it flips the script on him and things will fall into place moreso than has been in the past.”
The White Sox offense rewarded Quintana for his Houdini act, one that had Avila stunned they managed their way through it.
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Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu each had first-inning RBIs as the White Sox took a 2-0 lead. Cabrera’s two-out RBI single in the fifth inning extended the White Sox lead to 3-1 and Todd Frazier belted a solo homer in the sixth to make it a three-run lead.
Avisail Garcia, Carlos Sanchez and Leury Garcia all had RBI singles during a four-run eighth inning.
Perhaps its another sign the luck has turned for Quintana, who improved to 46-45 despite a 3.41 career ERA. Earlier this season, Quintana, whose 59 no decisions are still by far the most in the majors since 2012, finally reached 10 wins for the first time in his career.
Even though Quintana said statistics aren’t important to him, his manager believes they are a point of pride for the left-hander.
“It’s been so tough for him,” Ventura said. “I think it’s important. He has a lot of pride going out and doing what he can to help us win games. For him, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully we can score runs like this more often for him. Everybody knows his record would be a lot better if we could score some runs for him.”