KANSAS CITY -- Two outs. That's how close Jose Quintana was from completing his job Wednesday night, handing the ball off to the bullpen, and giving the offense a chance to secure a sweep.
But with one out and the bases empty in the bottom of the eighth of a tie ballgame, the White Sox starter allowed his first baserunner since the fourth inning, and it snowballed from there. Soon after, the Royals knocked Quintana out of the game and charged a pair of runs to his final line in their 3-1 win at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City salvaged the final game after dropping the first two.
"We wanted the three wins in this series, but we're ready for the next [series]," Quintana said.
Quintana cruised into the eighth inning having retired 11 straight. But a Nori Aoki two-strike bunt with one out began the rally. Alcides Escobar followed with a double in the left-center gap, then White Sox manager Robin Ventura ordered an intentional walk of Eric Hosmer to load the bases.
Reliever Jake Petricka came in to face the ground-ball happy Billy Butler, with the hope of an inning-ending double play. But Butler lined out to right and Aoki tagged and scored to break the 1-1 tie. Petricka walked the next two batters, with the second free pass scoring a run and making it 3-1.
Ventura said there was some thought to letting Quintana pitch to Hosmer in the eighth, but the possibility of an inning-ending double play was too tempting.
"Jake's been pretty good at getting ground balls, and if Billy puts it on the ground, you have a better chance of getting a double play, with one guy instead of him facing two guys. It just didn't work out," Ventura said.
"I knew what their thinking was when they walked Hoz. At the end of the game the other day, I hit a sharp ground ball right at the second baseman," Butler said. "So if I get on top of one, it's a double play. And the guy induces a lot of ground balls."
Wednesday served as the latest installment of poor luck and run support for Quintana, who, since 2012, leads the Majors with 31 no-decisions, despite his palatable 3.62 ERA during that time. In 65 career starts, he is 17-17.
"I don't get frustrated because I don't have control about that," Quintana said.
First baseman Paul Konerko offered another explanation for Quintana's lack of wins.
"Part of that is because of where he's slotted, he's going to go up against quality pitching, too," said Konerko. "But you'd like to reverse that trend as soon as you can."
Quintana tossed a season-high 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, eight hits and striking out four. He matched Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie pitch for pitch through seven innings.
Guthrie took the no-decision, but he baffled the White Sox. Chicago only managed three hits in Guthrie's seven innings of work, and none of them came after the third inning.
His only blemish occurred in the second, and Kansas City's defense shared part of the blame.
Second baseman Pedro Ciriaco failed to convert a tailor-made double play on an Alexei Ramirez grounder, hurling the relay throw out of the reach of Hosmer. Ramirez promptly stole second, then scored on Konerko's single to left-center, putting Chicago up 1-0.
"[Guthrie was] tremendous, he should have got out of there scoreless. He got the double-play ball and we couldn't turn it for him," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Kansas City's first run came in the third on an Aoki RBI single, his first of the Royals' nine-game homestand. Aoki drove in Ciriaco, who reached on an infield single and advanced into scoring position on a Brett Hayes groundout.
Quintana found himself in trouble the following inning, when a trio of well-placed hits loaded the bases with one out. Butler punched a weak single just out of the reach of second baseman Gordon Beckham, Danny Valencia beat the shift with a seeing-eye single, and Lorenzo Cain dropped a popup between Ramirez and left fielder Alejandro De Aza.
With the bases loaded, Ciriaco bounced one back to Quintana for an easy 1-2-3 double play.
Threat diffused, Quintana went back to work, setting down the Royals with ease. Quintana recorded 1-2-3 innings in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, and it took him only 35 pitches to get through those three frames.
Beckham ripped a third-inning double into right-center field. Guthrie did not surrender a hit after that, and no White Sox reached second base until the ninth.
Chicago threatened against closer Greg Holland, but Ramirez bounced into a game-ending double play with runners on first and second.
"[Quintana] pitched out of a couple big spots, and those are the spots where hopefully it gives us the energy to come out and score some runs, and we just didn't do that, and that's that," Konerko said.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.