CLEVELAND — So that’s what quality looks like.
From White Sox starting pitchers, it has been downright scarce.
The Sox finally got a quality start courtesy of right-hander Ivan Nova in a 9-1 victory Monday against the Indians to open a seven-game road trip, and the laugher-quality win was really needed and enjoyed.
Nova pitched seven innings of one-run ball for only the 10th quality start (six innings, three earned runs or fewer) by the Sox and their first since Reynaldo Lopez dominated the Tigers with 14 strikeouts April 28. Nova (1-3) walked one, struck out five and scattered eight hits as the Sox (15-18) snapped a three-game losing streak.
Like every other Sox starting pitcher, Nova had been a disappointment with an 8.33 ERA in his first six starts. This was the second time he allowed one run in seven innings against the Indians, though, matching his first outing at Progressive Field on April 1.
The Sox’ rotation has been beaten repeatedly and beaten up by injuries. Lucas Giolito missed two starts with a hamstring strain, and Carlos Rodon went down with an elbow injury, possibly for the season.
“We’re going to get better,” Nova said. “There’s no doubt about it. Every time one of the guys throws a good game, you say, ‘OK, tomorrow somebody else will step up and do the same.’ Obviously, it hasn’t happened that way, but we’re still confident we can do a better job than we’ve been doing. Hopefully, tomorrow Lucas throws the way I threw today, and we continue to do it.’’
Perhaps having a different catcher made a difference for Nova. James McCann, who had watched Welington Castillo catch all of Nova’s starts, was behind the plate for him for the first time.
“He’s really smart, but it doesn’t matter who’s behind the plate,’’ Nova said. ‘‘If you don’t execute, you’re going to get hit.’’
McCann caught Nova during spring training and in some bullpen sessions between starts and keeps the dialog open with all Sox pitchers.
“I try to talk to him and say, ‘What went well, what didn’t go well, what did you feel out there?’ Then it’s easier to be on the same page when a day like today comes,” McCann said.
“The big thing for me is he located on both sides of the plate. He didn’t allow hitters to lean on him.’’
McCann, who’s batting .351, also hit a 436-foot homer against Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer, who matched career highs with eight runs and seven earned runs allowed.
Bauer allowed more than four earned runs for the first time since May 8, 2017, snapping a streak of 60 starts allowing four earned runs or fewer, the longest in the majors since Greg Maddux made 106 such consecutive starts between 1991 and 1994.
“The plan was to get our pitch and not miss it and not allow ourselves to get in two-strike counts,” McCann said.
Yoan Moncada drove in four runs in his first three plate appearances with his seventh homer, a sacrifice fly and a double, Leury Garcia had three hits, Tim Anderson had two singles, two RBI and his major-league-best 12th stolen base and Charlie Tilson, called up from Class AAA Charlotte in the morning, singled and doubled off the 400-foot sign on the center-field wall in his first two at-bats.
Before Nova’s strong start, Sox starters had an 8.50 ERA and .349 opponents’ average in their last 12 games. They had allowed 17 home runs in those 12 games. Only Lopez had worked six innings during that span.
“[Nova is] a veteran, he’s been around, and his strength is his sinker, and everyone knows that,” McCann said. “So using both sides of the plate with all his pitches is key. He did a really good job of that.’’