White Sox-Blue Jays Preview
The sudden retirement of Adam LaRoche during spring training and subsequent rift between players and management shifted the focus off the field and made headlines nationwide.
Fast forward six weeks, and the Chicago White Sox are garnering attention for much different reasons.
Their latest winning streak began with yet another quality start from Jose Quintana, and he'll look to remain perfect in his career at Rogers Centre by helping Chicago complete a three-game sweep of the slumping Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
The White Sox (15-6) have come from threatening to boycott a spring game in a wacky turn of events that involved LaRoche's teenage son to being tied with the crosstown Cubs for the most wins in baseball with season's first month drawing to a close. They've won five in a row and moved nine games over .500 for the first time since late September 2012 after crushing Toronto 10-1 on Tuesday with help from Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, who have turned their anger from the fallout with executive Kenny Williams into solid performances on the diamond.
Sale pitched eight innings to win his fifth straight start, and Eaton increased his average to .309 with a homer and two RBIs as Chicago set season highs for runs and hits with 15.
''Our pitching's really been carrying us, but we know we can put some runs up on the board,'' Eaton said.
The White Sox's winning streak began with Friday's 5-0 win over Texas as Quintana (2-1, 1.82 ERA) allowed four hits in seven innings. He ran into trouble in the sixth, but his defense turned the majors' first-ever 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play.
"Q came out and pitched his butt off, which we love to see," Eaton said.
The left-hander has done that often. His 49 quality starts since 2014 are tied with Sale for fifth in the AL, and he has eight during a stretch where he's gone 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA over his last nine outings.
Quintana has earned a quality start all seven times he's faced the Blue Jays (10-12), going 4-2 with a 1.88 ERA. In his last start against Toronto on July 7, Quintana went eight innings but was done in by Josh Donaldson's fourth-inning homer that was the difference in a 2-1 loss.
He's won all three of his starts with a 0.89 ERA at Rogers Centre. Toronto has dropped five of seven overall and mustered only four hits while scoring its fewest runs of the season Tuesday.
Donaldson went 0 for 4 from the DH spot as he battles a sore left thigh, but he could return to third base for this one. Manager John Gibbons also hopes catcher Russell Martin will be able to go after missing the last three with neck spasms.
"We still have confidence in ourselves," Gibbons said. "We'll get it going."
If Martin is behind the plate he'll be working with Marco Estrada, who hopes to have better control in this outing. Estrada (1-1, 2.50) allowed one run and struck out nine in five innings Thursday, but he also surrendered six hits and issued four walks in Toronto's 3-2 loss to Baltimore while throwing 104 pitches.
''Physically, I was drained,'' Estrada said. ''Mentally, I was drained. It was just a grind.''
The right-hander seemed just fine in his only career start against the White Sox, allowing three runs in seven innings before the Blue Jays fell 5-3 in 10 innings May 27.
Todd Frazier is 3 for 14 with two homers against Estrada.