Do the White Sox have to come home?
It's strange to say that after the way this 11-game journey started, but they saved their most professional-looking game for last, subduing the Blue Jays to take the four-game series at Rogers Centre. Considering they came into Toronto losing six of the first seven, a 4-7 road trip is merely unfortunate, rather than an abject disaster.
Mark Buehrle fans enjoyed a 2014 Mark Buehrle start, but Jose Quintana fans saw his best outing of the year, engineering the White Sox' first shutout of the season. A homer, a couple timely hits, fuss-free bullpen work, good defense ... it was the kind of all-around competence that had been lacking this season.
Quintana looked unflappable during his seven innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out seven. One could make the argument that he should've had eight strikeouts and two hits, as home plate umpire Brian Knight didn't give him a clear strike three to Jose Reyes, and Reyes singled with his second life.
That single led off the fourth inning, and with the White Sox leading 1-0, that could've spelled trouble. Reyes didn't advance, though, as Moises Sierra pulled a ball back from foul territory down the right-field line for the first out, and Quintana retired Edwin Encarnacion (routine flyout) and Dioner Navarro (strikeout) to end the inning.
Reyes tried to start another rally in the sixth, lining a one-out double to left to put Quintana in his biggest bind yet. He got Darin Mastroianni to ground out and walked Encarnacion. With the potential tying run at the plate, John Gibbons pulled Navarro for Jose Bautista, who hadn't appeared in a game during the series. Despite a wild pitch to move Reyes to third, there would be no Kirk Gibson moment. Bautista grounded out to short to end the threat.
Buehrle was almost as good as Quintana -- and for an inning longer -- but that wasn't enough. The Sox cracked him for single runs early in the game, and that was plenty for Sox pitching.
The two-out offense that sparked Saturday's victory made a cameo appearance in the third inning. After Buehrle got two quick outs, Gordon Beckham extended the inning with a ground-rule double to right center, and Jose Abreu cashed him in by lining a first-pitch changeup to left for an RBI single.
In the fourth, Sierra jumped on a flat, hanging 80-mph changeup (though Gameday calls it his fastball, and might not be wrong) and hammered it to left for a solo shot. Buehrle settled in after that, but it was already too late, and a two-run single by Tyler Flowers eliminated a save situation for a bullpen that doesn't have a closer right now.
*Flowers also started a 2-4 double play, thanks to a bizarre TOOTBLAN by Mastroianni. Encarnacion popped up a pitch behind the plate, and Flowers caught it toward the edge of Rogers Centre's considerable foul territory. It looked like Mastroianni thought he could draw a throw to second, but Flowers threw to first instead, and Beckham slapped a tag on him for a confusing, delightful end to the first inning.
*Paul Konerko went 1-for-3 against Buehrle, with a single, strikeout and flyout.
*Buerhle is now 0-4 over his last five decisions, albeit with a 3.44 ERA over that stretch, which happens to be Quintana's ERA for the season.