Jose Quintana was sailing along, peaceful and calm. Suddenly, the sixth inning went wrong.
Holding the slimmest of margins with aplomb through five, Quintana went from facing the minimum to being down 3-1 in a flash.
With one out, Omar Infante started the rally innocuously with a double. Paulo Orlando then slashed a double to right center to tie the game, and while Tyler Saladino saved a run with a diving stop on Alcides Escobar's infield single, it didn't matter. Lorenzo Cain dropped a double into the left-field corner to give the Royals a lead, and Kendrys Morales followed with a single to give the Royals a 3-1 lead.
Then the Royals tacked on one more off Quintana in the seventh, and the White Sox only posed a minor threat afterward. It was a disappointing start to the series considering this was the most advantageous pitching matchup the Sox held.
Dillon Gee, one of the Royals' two auxiliary starters pressed into action, worked hard over his five innings, but it was worth it. He threw 92 pitches, but he held the Sox to just one run, which came on an Austin Jackson sacrifice fly in the second inning. Jackson lofted that sac fly with the bases loaded and one out, but the Sox couldn't capitalize further, and that was the theme of the night for the offense. They went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
They had a chance at making it a ballgame in the seventh inning, after Adam Eaton singled and Jose Abreu walked with one out. Todd Frazier followed with a well-struck liner, but Escobar flagged it down with a great effort to his right, then threw behind Eaton at second for the double play.
It was sweet revenge for Escobar, who spent the evening on the wrong end of defensive gems. While he did get an infield single hitting the ball toward Saladino in the sixth, his shortstop counterpart took a couple infield singles away from him earlier in the game with sweet plays to his right (including a diving stab and throw to start the game). And preceding his 6-4 game-sealer in the bottom of the seventh, he was caught off first by Abreu after Lorenzo Cain's liner to the right side only found mitt for a 3-unassisted double play.
*Saladino made his second-best play of the night on Sal Perez, backhanding a ball that bounced off the lip of the infield and collecting it well enough to make a strong throw. It pulled Abreu off the bag, but he was able to apply the tag. He was the Sox' first star tonight.
*Matt Purke made his MLB debut and contributed 1⅓ scoreless innings. He gave up three hits, but he was able to get Cain to fly out to left with runners on second and third to make Wade Davis appear in this one.
*Davis struck out Eaton with a runner on third to end the game. Abreu, batting second for the first time, was on deck representing the tying run. So at least we saw why Abreu batting second is an idea worth pursuing.
*Quintana's ERA is now 1.98, which gives Chris Sale leads the AL in that category.