For the third time this season, Jose Quintana pitched eight innings of shutout ball, and came away with nothing to show for it. For the third time this series, the White Sox offense scored one run.
So, losing three out of four in Boston makes sense. Painful, painful sense.
While Matt Thornton took the loss for having two baserunners aboard when Addison Reed gave up the walk-off homer to Cody Ross, you can find plenty of fault beyond their inadequate efforts. For instance...
The offense: Because scoring one run in three out of four games doesn't really work. Without a rampaging Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz and Alfredo Aceves held the White Sox to one run on eight hits. The one run wasn't particularly dynamic, either -- Adam Dunn walked, moved to third on Paul Konerko's single, and scored on Alex Rios' sac fly.
Physics and architecture: Gordon Beckham would have had an RBI double (or triple) when the ball he shot down the right-field line got past a sliding Cody Ross. Alas, it hopped the short wall behind the Pesky Pole for a ground rule double, which meant that Dayan Viciedo could only advance to third. Eduardo Escobar grounded out to end the threat.
Robin Ventura: Youkilis was available to pinch hit, and with runners on second and third with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, that would have been the time to use him. Then again, Escobar was a hard-luck 0-for-2 with two well-struck lineouts, and then you'd have his defense...
Escobar's defense: ...except, the Sox had his defense. After Carl Crawford reached on a solid single to start the ninth, Matt Thornton jammed Dustin Pedroia into what should have been a 5-4-3 double play. But Escobar, who triple-clutched on a groundout the inning before, double-clutched on his throw to second. He bounced it, and it took a great effort by Beckham to get even one out. His attempt at two was hopeless, and so Pedroia remained on base. Which is why #ThorntonLuck is a hashtag.
Thornton (and the pitch selection): Thornton then allowed a single to Adrian Gonzalez, which means he failed to retire either of the lefties he was brought in to face. One problem? Thornton threw all fastballs, with very little variety of eye level. He'd been throwing the slider 40 percent of the time in July with encouraging results, but when he had two strikes on two lefties, he didn't try even one pitch below the zone. Very curious work by Thornton and A.J. Pierzynski.
Ventura and his reliever use: My first guess had Quintana facing Crawford to start the ninth, then Reed to face the rest, because Gonzalez has reverse splits this year, and Reed's changeup is better than his slider. By the time Reed came into the game to face Ross, I didn't see the advantage. Reed doesn't get grounders, so chances of a double play were slim. And while Ross struggles against righties, he can probably hit a fastball -- which is all Reed has against righties right now.
Reed: Pierzynski set up on the outside corner, and Reed's pitch hit the inside corner. And then Ross' bat hit Reed' pitch, and then Ross flipped his bat.
So who isn't to blame? Well, Quintana stands mostly alone. He pitched eight efficient innings against a good offense, and when the environment got tough, so did he.The only baserunner to reach over the first six inning was Pedro Ciriaco, whom Quintana stranded after a two-out triple.
He almost hit a wall in the seventh. After Crawford tapped out to the mound to start the inning, Pedroia, Gonzalez and Ross all reached with singles. Dayan Viciedo fumbled the exchange when charging Ross' single, but his shallow positioning and his arm's reputation already triggered the stop sign before the potential error was committed.
That one base turned out to be huge, because Alexei Ramirez made a play that was even bigger. Quintana and Will Middlebrooks battled each other to a full count -- Middlebrooks fouled off a couple hittable pitches, and then Quintana started hitting the corners.
Finally, Quintana got Middlebrooks to put on in play off the end of his bat. But the weak contact caused some crazy spin, changing directions on Ramirez as he moved in the wrong direction. Miraculously, Ramirez recovered, lunged in the other direction and picked the ball on the short hop from an impossible angle, and had the composure to start a perfect 5-4-3 double play to get Quintana out of the jam.
That would have been the lede of this recap had the White Sox won 1-0. Next time, maybe Quintana should go the distance no matter how bad of an idea it is.