Baseball often gets–Praised? Bemoaned? Slandered?–for its lack of predictability, but back-to-back games of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana facing fill-in rotation options for the A’s have gone about as predictably as could have been hoped.
1. Quintana himself was far from dominant, not that immolating his opponents is often his path to success. He needed a leaping over-the-shoulder catch from J.B. Shuck in center on a bullet from Ryon Healy to save him from two runs in the first inning. Lacking his best curveball, Quintana breezed through the next two frames, before Khris Davis burned him for a massive opposite-field two-run shot in the top of the fourth, and he needed another Shuck diving gem to steal extra bases from Brett Eibner.
A mini-jam cropped up in the fifth, when back-to-back two-out singles from Coco Crisp and Jake Smolinski brought up Marcus Semien, fresh off doubles in his first two at-bats, but the former Sox infielder’s liner to left easily found Melky Cabrera‘s glove.
2. From there on out, Quintana mostly cruised, gliding through the seventh with just the two runs allowed six strikeouts, and to that point, no walks. He maintained his elite fastball command even without his curve, and then by the end of the day he was nicking the bottom of the zone with his curve anyway.
With just 93 pitches heading into the eighth, Quintana came out for more, but lost his control against Smolinski and walked him after starting 0-2 and was pulled for Nate Jones.
3. The offense gave Quintana an early, if small cushion with some help from the A’s defense in the first. A grounder up the middle from Tim Anderson tipped off Semien’s glove on its way to center, allowing leadoff man Adam Eaton to sprint to third on the slow-developing play. After Eaton was thrown out at home by Yonder Alonso on a fielder’s choice, a seemingly easy inning-ending double play ball from Jose Abreu kept the inning going when Alonso couldn’t glove a low throw from Chad Pinder.
Gifted two extra outs, the Sox got to Zach Neal, a 27-year-old rookie making his fourth start of the year after working mostly in relief. Justin Morneau lined an RBI double to the left-center gap to put the Sox up 1-0. With two outs, Abreu would have normally scored on the play, but seemingly limped into third. It was immaterial, since Todd Frazier flipped a two-run single past Semien immediately afterward, and drew the throw to second to make sure the slow-footed Morneau could score.
4. Abreu went back to the dugout for…something, possibly treatment, and came back out a bit delayed for the top of the second. He was well enough to rip his 16th home run of the year to put the Sox up 4-2 in the fourth.
He was not well enough to not otherwise go 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, and weakly hit into outs to end rallies in the fifth and seventh. Frazier, who snapped out of his slump enough to collect a three-hit day, was stranded at second in the fourth and sixth for his efforts.
5. Inheriting a leadoff walk, Jones’ scoreless eighth inning was not removed of tension. Semien fouled off six full-count pitches before finally whiffing on a fastball on his hands, and Healy reached with two outs when Jones couldn’t find a comebacker that clipped off his foot. A routine flyout from Eibner ended a tough performance that was tougher than a line of IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K looks in the box score.
David Robertson allowed a leadoff single to Alonso in the ninth, and got two flyouts to the warning track on his way to his 32nd save. Maybe it was just the suspicion that unseen forces would never allow Quintana to get his 10th win that made this all seem tense.
Team Record: 59-64
Next game is Tuesday vs. Philadelphia at 7:10pm CT on WPWR
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