It’s probably not a good idea to give a pitcher who has your number a five-run lead before he steps on the mound.
That’s where Jose Quintana and the White Sox found themselves after half an inning on Friday night.
As expected, and even though the White Sox had plenty of chances, Jeremy Guthrie knew just what to do with the lead. Guthrie had a substandard night but worked around it and the Kansas City Royals defeated the White Sox 7-2 at U.S. Cellular Field. Quintana gave up six runs in the first two innings before he settled in and the White Sox finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 men. White Sox hitters struck out 12 times as the Royals improved to 10-2 against them in games started by Guthrie.
“That first inning we just couldn't get out of it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They were swinging it. I haven't looked at it, but Q just stubbed his foot in that first inning and from there, we had opportunities, we just couldn't capitalize on them. We worked some counts and got (Guthrie) in some tough situations. He just got out of it.”
Normally one of the White Sox most reliable pitchers, Quintana struggled from the outset on Friday.
His problems surfaced against a Kansas City offense that has come alive under ex-Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who took over as hitting coach on May 29.
Quintana said he didn’t have feel for his changeup during a first inning in which he allowed five straight hits to start, including RBI singles to Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler and an RBI double by Alex Gordon. With one out, Lorenzo Cain gave the Royals a 5-0 lead with a two-run double.
Nori Aoki then doubled to start the second inning and came around to score on Hosmer’s sacrifice fly to give Kansas City six runs. The six runs are the most Quintana has allowed in a start since he gave up seven against Minnesota on Sept. 4, 2012.
In 14 games with Sveum, the Royals are averaging nearly a run more per contest than they did previously and are 10-4 overall.
“I wanted to throw good pitches, but I missed a lot with location,” Quintana said. “A little bit high too. The first inning was a terrible inning for me, but I came back after.”
The White Sox offense couldn’t make the comeback despite myriad opportunities against Guthrie (3-6).
They scored a run in the first inning on Jose Abreu’s sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 5-1.
The White Sox then wasted a great opportunity in the second inning after they loaded the bases with no outs. Adam Eaton (two singles, three walks) drew a one-out walk to push across a run but the White Sox did nothing else. Tyler Flowers, who has struggled since late April, struck out, one of three whiffs. After Eaton walked, Gordon Beckham struck out on three pitches. Guthrie then got out of the jam with a 6-2 lead intact as Conor Gillaspie flew out to center.
Then Guthrie was off.
After Abreu’s leadoff hit in the third inning, he got Adam Dunn to pop out and struck out Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo.
Guthrie stranded two more runners in the fourth inning with the aid of a nice sliding catch by Alex Gordon on Gillaspie’s liner. And, with the help of reliever Aaron Crow, who got Beckham to pop out to end the sixth, the Royals stranded two more.
Guthrie limited the White Sox to two earned runs even though he gave up six hits, walked four and hit another. He struck out nine.
The White Sox also got the first two runners on base in the ninth inning but Tim Collins retired the last three men he faced, including Abreu on a called third strike.
“(Guthrie) was effectively wild I would say,” Eaton said. “But I feel like when he’s not on his best, we need to have a better showing. But credit their team to jump on us early and keep us down.”
Quintana (3-7) got much better as the night went on.
He retired 15 of 17 batters after he allowed Aoki’s leadoff double in the second inning.
The left-hander allowed six earned runs and eight hits with a walk over six innings. He struck out six.
It was just too little too late though Quintana was happy with how he finished.
“The first inning with my changeup, it felt a little bit hard, similar to the last games,” Quintana said. “After that it was working.
“Fight every inning. Fight no matter what happens. You never know what happens after that. Maybe you have a chance to come back.”