CHICAGO -- A performance such as the one turned in by Jose Quintana on Wednesday night against the Blue Jays would be good enough on most nights to propel the White Sox to victory.
On this particular evening, the rookie left-hander took his first career loss, as he was on the short end of a 4-0 final before 25,672 at U.S. Cellular Field. Quintana (1-1) was good, giving up two runs on nine hits over six innings.
Toronto starter Brandon Morrow (7-3) was a little bit better. Make that a great deal better, and again, that statement should not be misconstrued as a shot against Quintana.
Morrow threw his third complete-game shutout of the season, and actually hurled his third shutout since May 3. A.J. Pierzynski singled with two outs in the second off of Morrow, and the White Sox basically had nothing else until Pierzynski's leadoff single in the eighth.
Two walks in the ninth put Morrow's shutout in jeopardy. But he struck out Dayan Viciedo to strand runners on first and third and give the White Sox (31-25) their first back-to-back losses since May 15-16, and their first series loss since May 11-13 at home against the Royals.
Producing just two singles and five baserunners means a team won't be scoring many runs. But this loss was more about what Morrow did, and not what the White Sox offense lacked.
"He seemed to be locating everything," said Tyler Flowers, who made his third career start and fourth appearance at first base. "I didn't see the pitches that A.J. got hits on, but maybe those were a couple of mistakes. I got one pitch to hit all day and missed it. I just tried to battle after that, and it seems like everyone was in the same situation."
"It was just one of those days," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Morrow, who threw 78 of his 119 pitches for strikes. "You run into a guy that just puts it to you, just overmatches you. He had everything going."
Relying on almost all fastballs and sliders, Morrow fanned five and retired 14 straight White Sox hitters from the second into the seventh.
"I threw a few changeups to the left-handers to keep them honest," Morrow said. "But when I have fastball command down to both sides of the plate, that's when I've been at my best, and I had that tonight."
"His slider and split, at least what I saw, were pretty darn good today," Flowers said. "He was aggressive, getting ahead. It makes it tough."
Quintana's quality start wasn't quite as smooth as his counterpart, as he put at least one runner on base in all six innings that he pitched. He allowed a runner to reach at least second base in five of those innings.
When Quintana departed after 92 pitches, just the two runs had scored. The Blue Jays pushed across their first run in the fifth on Colby Rasmus' two-out single to right, bringing in Rajai Davis.
Jose Bautista opened the sixth with his 15th home run, a long blast covering 423 feet on a 3-2 pitch. It was really the only mistake Quintana made.
"My biggest thing was to just keep fighting out there and give us the opportunity to win," said Quintana through translator and White Sox director of cultural development Jackson Miranda. "It's a shame we lost, but at least we fought."
"Tonight, he just continued to prove he's going to get another shot," said Ventura of Quintana. "He's proved he can pitch up here."
Ventura's pregame comments Tuesday centered on Quintana moving back to Triple-A Charlotte when John Danks returns from the disabled list. Quintana is thought to be better suited as a starter, where he can pitch every fifth day on a regular schedule, and not as a seldom-used big league long reliever. Quintana also can stay ready in case of an injury or if Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber can't fight their way through ongoing struggles or when Chris Sale gets a brief respite to help manage his first-year starter innings total.
Continued performances such as Wednesday from Quintana, who has a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings after striking out one and walking one, could make the White Sox re-think their plan even when Danks reclaims his rotation spot in the next week to 10 days.
"You're always going to keep your eye on him," said Ventura of Quintana, who starts Tuesday in St. Louis. "It's impressive. But again, we have some guys that are a little more mature than their age. He's shown that when he first came up and then every time he's gone out, he's proved it."
"Until John comes back, I do feel I deserve to at least stay here," Quintana said. "But it's just one of those that I'll do as asked, and try to do the best I can when I'm called upon."
Toronto improved to 28-11 against the White Sox over the last six years, and the White Sox watched their American League Central lead drop to one-half game over the Indians (30-25). An offense that scored 72 runs over its recently-completed nine-game winning streak now has five runs in two games, both with Paul Konerko on the sideline, following a Tuesday procedure to flush a bone chip in his left wrist into a less-painful spot.
Credit goes more to Morrow Wednesday and Ricky Romero on Tuesday then worry about the start of a potential slump.
"Guys throw like that the last two nights, it's tougher," Ventura said. "That's just the way it goes. You just put it behind you and look to tomorrow."