If there were any doubts about Jose Quintana's place among the best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, they are gone after yesterday's Game 3 performance. In typical fashion, Quintana didn't receive any support when he was on the mound. Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning, and the Cubs defense began to fail Quintana. Showing shades of Dayan Viciedo on a fly ball that had an 82% catch probability, Kyle Schwarber dropped it, and then kicked the ball around. Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled Quintana with a runner on second base that shouldn't be there and the very next batter, Ryan Zimmermann, hits a RBI double to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead putting Quintana in line for the loss.
Unlike his time with the White Sox, magically it worked out for the Cubs despite the defensive miscues, not hitting for more than half of the game, and a couple of TOOTBLANs. Anthony Rizzo's Kansas City Special was the game-winning hit as the Cubs won a nailbiter, 2-1. Honestly, a game the Cubs had no business winning without the brilliance of Quintana holding his ground against Scherzer, this season's Cy Young favorite. His final line of 5.2 IP 2 H 1 R 0 ER 1 BB 7 K.
As Quintana was dealing, in Boston, Chris Sale was trying to keep the Astros off the board. Down two games to one in the best of five in large part because Sale struggled in Game 1. At a shot of redemption, the Red Sox called for the Condor in the fourth inning, down 2-1. With elimination on the line, Sale making his first relief appearance since 2012 unleashed on Astros hitters retiring seven straight to start. Rookie third baseman, Rafael Devers, made a brilliant play on Jose Altuve's bunt single attempt but couldn't glove Yuli Gurriel grounder resulting in a two-base error. With a runner on second, it was no matter to Sale as he struck out Evan Gattis and Brian McCann to end the sixth inning. After three innings, Sale had struck out four while not allowing a hit or walk. He was electric.
This stretch was also coming against one of his arch-nemesis, Justin Verlander. Manager AJ Hinch, today on ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning show, explained that before the game with a threat of rain delay he wanted Verlander to close the gap to Ken Giles if there was any stoppage. That rain never came, but Hinch still went to Verlander with a runner on first in the fifth inning. His first batter was Andrew Benintendi, and the youngster took the veteran deep to the right for a two-run homer.
With a chance to pitch the Red Sox to victory in Game 4, Sale allowed his first hit to George Springer to start the seventh. The next two batters couldn't do much with the base runner opportunity. Josh Reddick flew out to left and caught Altuve looking for Sale's fifth strikeout. Then Carlos Correa singled to left, and with two outs there were runners on first and second. Another hit allowed by Sale could give up Boston's lead. After a mound visit, Sale closed out that scoring opportunity by striking out Marwin Gonzalez, his sixth in four innings of work.
That is where Sale's day should have ended. Instead, Boston pushed Sale to a fifth inning of relief. In the eighth, Alex Bregman sat on Sale's changeup and crushed it over the Green Monster, tying the game 3-3. After Gurriel grounded out, Evan Gattis hit a bouncing grounder down the third base line. It hopped over the bag and play was stopped when the ball girl hired to field foul balls interfered with the play. With a runner on first, Sale recorded his final out by getting Brian McCann to line out to Mookie Betts in right field. Boston went to closer Craig Kimbrell ending Sale's day at 4.2 innings pitched.
That Gattis single though ended up giving the Astros a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Kimbrell threw a wild pitch, walked Springer, and allowed the go-ahead RBI single to Reddick. After some ninth-inning drama that included an inside-the-park homer by Devers, the Astros advanced to the ALCS winning Game 4, 5-4. Despite his efforts to save Boston's day, Sale received his second loss of the series. His first postseason experience ended with a line of 9.2 IP 13 H 9 ER 1 BB 12 K.
Later in the Bronx, Todd Frazier was the rally starter. Facing Trevor Bauer, who only had three days rest from his Game 1 start, Frazier laced a RBI double to left field in the second inning giving the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. Frazier would score on Aaron Hicks single to make it 2-0, and before the Indians could stop the bleeding, it was 4-0 after the second.
Cleveland would make the game tight heading into the fifth, as the Yankees were leading 5-3 as Frazier lead the inning off. In a stroke of luck and the theme of Cleveland's night, Frazier reached on base off Danny Salazar's throwing error. With Frazier on second, Hicks moved him over to third on a groundout, and Brett Gardner brought Frazier home on a sacrifice fly making it 6-3 Yankees.
Luis Severino was terrific in an excellent bounce-back performance from his disastrous start in the Wild Card game. Striking out nine over seven innings just allowing three runs. Manager Joe Girardi went to Dellin Betances to start the eighth. That didn't go to plan as Betances control issues still linger as he walked Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor. Girardi didn't waste time despite having a four-run cushion replacing Betances with Tommy Kahnle.
Boy, was Kahnle filthy. He struck out Jason Kipnis on three straight pitches catching him looking on his changeup. Jose Ramirez flew out to right field for the second out which is when Kahnle decided no other Indians were going to put the ball in play. Ending the game with four straight strikeouts in front of the emphatic Yankees crowd. In two innings of work, Kahnle struck out five batters for his first postseason save. For the series, Kahnle has pitched five scoreless innings without allowing a baserunner and striking out six.
Even though the 2017 season was fun, and many prospects still have a shine to them, last night was very bittersweet to be a White Sox fan. These performances from Quintana, Sale, Frazier, and Kahnle should have happened in a White Sox uniform. Performances in what many dreamed of at the beginning of 2016 when the team started 23-10 before crashing into another losing record. While White Sox fans can all dream about Moncada, Anderson, Kopech, Giolito, Lopez, Jimenez, and Robert, reality has a harsh way of telling us that the players Rick Hahn traded away were good enough to make the postseason. While it may hurt, hopefully, that emotional pain can be used to focus on avoiding witnessing another night like last.