Remind me again which one of these Chicago teams is close to clinching a division title, and which one has already lost 90+ games?
It sure didn’t seem like the Cubs were the former in a 10-4 loss to the White Sox Friday afternoon. Nor did it seem like the Sox were bothered after a long extra-inning contest Thursday night in Cleveland and a wee-hour arrival back home, and the Cubs seemed sluggish after their first off day in a month.
The Cubs will get this straightened out, I’m sure of it. But this one was a clunker.
It didn’t start out that way. Daniel Murphy hit the seventh pitch of the game into the right-field seats for a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
Really, I could (and probably should) stop here, because there were no real Cubs highlights to be found the rest of the way, and especially not pitching-wise. Jose Quintana retired the first three White Sox easily and then in the second inning, appeared to forget how to pitch. Five straight Sox got hits off him, the big blow being a three-run homer by Kevan Smith.
Smith. Who had exactly one home run previously this year in 153 at-bats, and just five career homers in 445 at-bats.
Q settled down, and the Cubs had a chance to score with two runners on and one out in the fourth, and that’s probably the point at which this game was irredeemably lost. They couldn’t score there, the Sox posted another run in the fourth, and Reynaldo Lopez then started mowing down Cubs hitters. Just one Cub after Murphy managed to get past second base off Lopez, David Bote, a pinch-runner for Jason Heyward, who doubled leading off the seventh. But he, too, was stranded.
By then the game had become a blowout. Quintana was lifted after a leadoff single in the sixth and Dillon Maples entered and showed that he had been taking lessons from Q’s second inning. Three straight hitters hit Maples hard, one a home run from Daniel Palka, and the score was 7-1 after six. Three more Sox runs scored off Randy Rosario in the seventh before Joe had mercy on Randy and had James Norwood finish off the inning, but at 10-1, a lot of the Cubs fans started heading for the exits.
The Cubs made it somewhat interesting in the top of the eighth, with one run scoring on a wild pitch and the other two on an excuse-me single by Bote following that. So it’s 10-4 with two out in the eighth...
#Cubs do have 46 come from behind wins ... just saying— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 21, 2018
Nope, Carrie. Not this time. That was too much of a deficit to overcome, and in addition to Heyward, Joe gave Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist the rest of the afternoon/early evening off in the eighth inning, probably a very wise choice. Also, the selection of relievers in this game, which included (in addition to Maples, Rosario and Norwood) Jaime Garcia, Brian Duensing and Brandon Kintzler, saved the more important members of the pen for another day, giving more rest when it was most needed. Of the relievers in this game, I continue to be impressed by Garcia, who recorded three outs without allowing a baserunner, two of them on a double play which was reviewed and ruled “call stands” [VIDEO].
Hey, these kinds of things happen, and Quintana joins a long line of former White Sox starters who have been pounded on their first start at the Sox ballpark as a visitor:
First start against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 21, 2018
Jon Garland (LAD) 5/21/2011: 3.2 IP, 11 H, 7 ER
Mark Buehrle (TOR) 8/16/2014: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER
Chris Sale (BOS) 5/30/2017: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 5 ER
José Quintana (CHC) today: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 5 ER
Yep, even Chris Sale. Also, since we’re summing up the Cubs’ bad day at the ballpark, let’s get this one out of the way too:
White Sox now have 19 hits, most vs #Cubs this season (previous high 18 by Cards on July 20)— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 21, 2018
The crowd on the South Side seemed about half-and-half, Cubs and Sox fans, and the Cubs fans were loud when Murphy homered. Sox fans matched that on Smith’s home run, and after that most Cubs fans had little to cheer for. I have heard Saturday’s game is a complete sellout, even standing room; Sunday’s game has some standing-room ticket availability.
The Cubs still have a chance to reduce their magic number; at this writing the Brewers trail the Pirates 3-1 in the fifth inning in a game that is in a rain delay. If the Pirates — who are 11-5 against the Brewers so far this year — hold on to that lead, the Cubs’ division-clinching number will be reduced to seven.
And they’ll get another shot at the White Sox Saturday evening. Jon Lester, who was given an extra day’s rest by having his slot in the rotation swapped with Quintana’s, will start for the Cubs and Lucas Giolito goes for the Sox. Game time Saturday is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.