Jose Quintana finally got a chance to pick on somebody his own size when it came to run support, and he won this battle going away.
At 2.50 runs per game, Quintana entered the game with the worst offensive backing in the American League. But tonight's opponent, Corey Kluber, was right behind him at 2.52. When the dust cleared, Quintana was all smiles, and suddenly comparable to last year's Cy Young winner.
- Quintana: 5-9, 3.56 ERA
- Kluber: 5-11, 3.59 ERA
Quintana pitched one of the best games of his career, and he was handsomely rewarded for it, recording his first complete game and his first shutout.
Quintana was his best self, mastering both sides of the plate with both his fastball and his breaking ball. The latter was especially impressive. It was as if his curve had a switch between "back-foot" and "back-door" to right-handed hitters, and they couldn't put a good swing on it either way.
The Indians made him sweat a little early, as they had runners in scoring position in the:
- First inning: But Quintana pitched around a two-out double.
- Second inning: But Quintana erased a pair of one-out singles with a double play ball.
- Third inning: But literally only for about a second.
Some classic Cuban ingenuity foiled Cleveland in the last scenario. With Jason Kipnis on first, Michael Brantley hit a single to the hole on the left side. Ramirez backhanded it to hold Brantley to an infield single, but he sensed an opportunity for more. Indeed, Kipnis had rounded the bag too aggressively, and Ramirez threw behind him to Carlos Sanchez, who handled the one-hop throw and slapped the tag on Kipnis to end the inning.
After that, Quintana cruised, retiring 17 of the last 19 Indians en route to a 120-pitch shutout. He recorded more strikeouts (eight) than baserunners allowed (six singles, one double), and it was his fifth walkless start in his last six tries (one walk over his last 44⅔ innings).
Kluber largely matched Quintana over the first five innings. The Sox did hold a 1-0 lead, but that was thanks to #WILDPITCHOFFENSE in the third inning. They squandered a golden opportunity to add to it by wasting Melky Cabrera's leadoff double, so it looked like business as usual for both starters.
But Jose Abreu gave Quintana a little more breathing room with two outs in the sixth by jumping on a first-pitch fastball. He hit it higher than he did long, but it still traveled far enough to doink against the railing above the yellow line on Progressive Field's high wall in left for his 15th homer of the year.
And if that wasn't enough for Quintana, the Sox took it to Kluber in the eighth. Adam Eaton led off with a single, stole second, then took third on Tyler Saladino's single. Melky Cabrera then shot a grounder over first base and down the right-field line for a two-run double, which doubled the lead to 4-0.
Terry Francona called for Kluber to walk Abreu in order to set up a potential double play on a lefty-lefty matchup between Marc Rzepczynski and Adam LaRoche. Rzepczynski did his part by getting a grounder to first, but Jesus Aguilar couldn't come up with it cleanly, and had to settle for a 3-1 putout on an overturned call.
Francona then went to Bryan Shaw for the righty-righty matchup with Avisail Garcia, who complied with a grounder to Aguilar that froze the runners. Ramirez followed the lead of Cabrera, LaRoche and Garcia with another batted ball toward first base. This time, it was a sinking liner that clipped the back side of first base and rolled past a diving Aguilar for another two-run double. That closed Kluber's tab with a whopping six runs on it, and Robin Ventura had the luxury to allow Quintana a chance to make personal history.
*The Sox have won all three games Kluber started against them this year.
*Ramirez went 3-for-4, stole two bases, and made two highlight-reel plays and a third above-average one at shortstop.
*The game's only unintentional walk was drawn by Sanchez, who added a lucky single to continue raising his average and OBP.
*Garcia and Tyler Flowers were the only hitless White Sox on the night, but at least Flowers caught a shutout.