Chicago, IL – A gem from Jose Quintana ended the Chicago White Sox's longest losing streak in 35 years, though the left-hander's efforts were overshadowed by the return of a member of the opposite dugout.
Alex Rodriguez's controversial season debut wound up a night to forget for Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees, who were held squarely in check by Quintana in an 8-1 loss to the previously slumping White Sox that opened a three-game series.
Rodriguez, now recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip performed in January, was activated from the 60-day disabled list for his first major league action since last October's ALCS, despite the star slugger being levied a 211-game suspension by the league office earlier on Monday for allegedly purchasing and using prohibited performance-enhancing substances from the South Florida-based anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America.
The three-time AL MVP's ban, set to run through the entire 2014 season, officially kicks in on Thursday. However, Rodriguez has elected to appeal the penalty and will be eligible to play until his case is heard by an arbitrator.
Rodriguez finished 1-for-4 with a single in his initial at-bat, one of eight hits allowed by Quintana (6-3) over a 6 2/3-inning stint in which he permitted just the one run.
"It's been crazy, but from this point on I'm going to do my very best to focus on baseball," Rodriguez said following the game. "Every game is very important. It was good for me to get the first one behind me. We didn't win, but we need to have every game like it's a playoff game.
"I just hope there's a happy ending somewhere."
Ironically, Quintana was suspended 50 games for using a banned substance while in the New York Mets' minor league system in 2007.
His effort enabled Chicago to halt a 10-game skid, the club's worst since an equal drought from June 11-20, 1976, though Quintana had plenty of help from a lineup that battered Pettitte (7-9) for seven runs and 11 hits in only 2 2/3 innings of work.
"I got good run support so that was really good today," Quintana said through an interpreter.
Alex Rios drove in four runs and Alexei Ramirez went 4-for-5 with two RBI to lead the charge. Gordon Beckham added two hits, including an RBI single, while Jeff Keppinger ended 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the rout.
Rodriguez's return also came on the same day in which the Yankees placed Derek Jeter on the disabled list for the third time this season, with the shortstop and team captain still bothered by a lingering quadriceps injury as well as a calf strain.
"I feel bad. I'd much rather not sit here talking about suspensions. I'd rather be sitting here talking about a baseball game, but obviously not," Jeter said. "Whenever you're talking about something like this it's negative. You wish it didn't happen, but it did and now you move on."
The White Sox came into the contest having managed just four runs over their last four games, but had little trouble producing against a struggling Pettitte right from the start.
Chicago strung together four straight singles off the veteran lefty to begin the bottom of the first, including an RBI knock from Rios followed by a hit from Paul Konerko that loaded the bases. Adam Dunn then came inches short of a grand slam on a deep fly ball that brought in another run, and Beckham made it a 3-0 game by fisting a single to left center to score Rios.
Rodriguez was showered with a chorus of boos as he led off the second with a bloop single. He was standing on third shortly afterward as Vernon Wells drilled a double into the left-field corner, but ended up stranded when Quintana induced a pair of pop-ups before fanning Eduardo Nunez to get out of the jam.
The Yankees rarely threatened over the next four innings, with Quintana allowing just three hits and a walk during that stretch to continue his shutout bid.
Pettitte, on the other hand, continued to get hit hard. A Josh Phegley single and Keppinger's double put two in scoring position with one out in the bottom of the second for Rios, who drilled a single up the middle to plate both runners and extend the lead to 5-0.
Chicago's hit parade kept on in the third. Beckham singled to open the host's half of the frame and later came around on a Ramirez base hit. Pettitte was lifted after walking Keppinger to load the bases, right before reliever Preston Claiborne issued a free pass to Rios for a 7-0 advantage.
Ramirez's third hit of the night, a double to the wall in left center that scored Alejandro De Aza from first, gave the Sox an eight-run cushion after six innings.
The Yankees finally got to Quintana in the seventh, when Nunez and Chris Stewart reached on consecutive singles in front of Brett Gardner's sac fly.
Rodriguez flied out to center in his second at-bat and lined to left in the top of the sixth. His final appearance resulted in a strikeout looking against Matt Lindstrom in the eighth.
"I thought he looked OK," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought his swings looked pretty good tonight."
Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, currently recovering from a broken hand, accepted a 50-game suspension from MLB for being among Biogenesis' clients ... Wells, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, started at first base and played the position for the first time in his 15-year career in the majors, which spans 1,646 games ... White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo was replaced in the bottom of the first after jamming his left thumb while diving for a ball in the top of the inning ... Pettitte fell to 3-8 with a 6.99 ERA in 13 career starts at U.S. Cellular Field, and Monday's outing was his shortest since lasting 2 1/3 innings against Tampa Bay on July 18, 2010.