CHICAGO -- There's no reason to demean Jeremy Guthrie's pitching ability in order to emphasize the White Sox lack of offense during their 2-1 loss to the Royals Wednesday night before 25,151 at U.S. Cellular Field.
But the statistical truths are hard to overlook.
Guthrie entered this series finale with a 0-9 record and 7.43 ERA over his last 14 games. There were eight starts on Guthrie's 2012 ledger where he allowed at least five earned runs or more.
On this night, though, Guthrie (1-3) looked like Justin Verlander to the White Sox (60-50). His eight scoreless innings of five-hit baseball at least had that sort of feel.
"We've seen him pitch like that before," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Guthrie, who earned his first victory since May 31 when he was still pitching for the Rockies. "Obviously, teams know he has it in there. He just hasn't had it this year until unfortunately against us."
"You're not going to talk to anyone who knows baseball that says he doesn't have good stuff," said White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn of the Royals' winning pitcher. "He's got great stuff. But usually it seems like you're going to get a pitch or two to hit. Tonight we did, but we didn't do anything with them. He didn't make mistakes."
Even with Guthrie's dominance, the White Sox still had a chance to pull out a victory against Royals closer Greg Holland -- who notched his third save -- in the ninth. Dunn launched a 0-2 pitch to right-center for a one-out double, and scored one out later on Pierzynski's single up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
Alexi Ramirez was the White Sox final hope, but his spinning liner was caught by shortstop Alcides Escobar. The second straight victory for Kansas City (47-63) marked the White Sox first home series loss since June 8-10 against Houston. It also ended a four-series winning streak overall following a 3-7 start to the season's second half.
"Since August started, we've been playing pretty good baseball here," said Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team has won six of its last nine. "We had a horrible July but we've rebounded, turned it around, and we're playing pretty darn good baseball right now."
"It seemed like we couldn't get anything going [against Guthrie]. He was sinking and cutting it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Until the ninth, it didn't seem like we were mounting anything."
This loss, dropping the White Sox to 13-12 in the second half and 4-5 against the Royals, was played without Paul Konerko, who sustained a mild concussion during Tuesday's loss, and Alex Rios, who had a stiff back. The White Sox did get Alejandro De Aza back after a two-game absence and Kevin Youkilis returned after a one-game hiatus due to a sore right knee. But the South Siders still couldn't do much with Guthrie, who entered the contest sporting a 7.71 ERA.
Over the first seven innings, only two White Sox runners reached second base. From the third to the sixth, Guthrie retired nine straight and fanned six overall without issuing a walk.
"Looking at his numbers, you still know what kind of pitcher he is," Dunn said of Guthrie.
Jose Quintana (4-2) benefited from his eight-day break in between starts, allowing just two runs on five hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out five and walked two before leaving in the eighth after Alex Gordon reached first on a wild pitch off of a swinging third strike.
His only two real mistakes produced the Royals' two runs. Mike Moustakas went deep with two outs in the second, after Quintana retired the first five Royals hitters, and Salvador Perez took Quintana the opposite way with two outs in the fourth.
"I felt good. The extra days actually helped me out," said Quintana through translator and White Sox manager of cultural relations Jackson Miranda. "My arm felt good and then I was just out there battling, trying to help the team.
"On the second [homer], I would definitely say I made a mistake in throwing that pitch. But you know how this game goes. That could have been a fly ball so you never know which way it's going to go."
Quintana has received two runs or fewer of support in eight starts this season, so the White Sox being shut out while he was on the mound was not a surprise. Maybe the only surprise was that Guthrie did the job, keeping the White Sox one-half game ahead of the Tigers in the American League Central after Detroit's 12-8 loss to the Yankees, but also one-half game ahead of Wild Card contenders Baltimore and Oakland.
"Yeah this is definitely part of the game," Quintana said. "It's one of those that right now I'm not getting much run support but that'll change, and then we'll be winning a lot of games and getting a lot of run support.
"It's something that I talked to [Jake] Peavy about. He was just saying as of right now it's just a bit of bad luck, but that'll change and that's part of the game."