Is Jose Quintana’s inexplicably bad luck finally starting to turn around?
It’s impossible to discern why the White Sox consistently weren’t able to support Quintana — and seemingly only Quintana, which feels somewhere between confirmation bias and the truth — from 2012-2015, in which the 27-year-old left-hander totaled the most no-decisions of any pitcher in baseball.
But on a chilly Friday night, Quintana fired seven scoreless innings and was supported by both his offense and defense in the White Sox 5-0 win over the Texas Rangers in front of 15,486 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Some opportunistic hitting and baserunning staked Quintana that lead. Three of those runs came in the bottom of the sixth, with Brett Lawrie flipping a two-run double to center and Jerry Sands following with an RBI single.
In the top of the seventh, though, Texas quickly loaded the bases on a Prince Fielder double, an Adrian Beltre single and an Ian Desmond walk. It looked like Quintana might squander a rare spate of run support — the White Sox in 2015 scored five or more runs in his starts as many times (10) as they scored zero or one run — when Mitch Moreland launched a line drive toward right field.
What followed was a remarkable 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play. It’s the first time that sequence produced a triple play in major league history, and it was the first triple play turned by the White Sox in nearly 10 years.
“If anybody on the field deserves to have that happen, it's Q,” manager Robin Ventura said. “I think that's a good sign. It's something he's earned with what he's been through."
Quintana was in control of things until the seventh, slicing through the Rangers’ lineup with a fastball spotted with scalpel-like precision. He retired 11 in a row between the third and sixth innings and only allowed a walk and two singles before that.
It looked like Quintana would have to pitch without much support again, as the White Sox only scraped together two runs in the first five innings. Melky Cabrera’s heads-up baserunning — he noticed Rangers catcher Bryan Holaday couldn’t locate a ball that bounced a few feet away from him — led to a run in the second, and Adam Eaton’s double turned into a run on an Austin Jackson sacrifice bunt and Jose Abreu sacrifice fly in the third.
A two-out rally in the sixth, though, provided Quintana with more than enough sport. Todd Frazier walked and Cabrera followed with a double, and both players scored on Brett Lawrie’s two-run double to center. Jerry Sands then followed with an RBI single to put the White Sox up by five.
The White Sox scored three or fewer runs in 15 of Quintana’s 32 starts last year, and despite a 3.36 ERA, the White Sox only went 14-18 in his starts. In the two years before that, it was worse — in the White Sox went 12-20 in Quintana’s starts and scored three or fewer runs 19 times in 2014; in 2013, the White Sox scored three or fewer runs 17 times and went 15-18 with Quintana on the mound.
Quintana had a 3.40 ERA from 2013-2015, but still hasn’t won 10 games in a season. He’s expecting this is finally the year he breaks into the double digits.
“I have all the confidence in me for this year, for the team,” Quintana said. “I’m thinking more than 10.”
It’s not like Quintana needs good luck to get to 10 wins, not with the way he’s pitched and continues to pitch. He hasn’t allowed a home run in 24 2/3 innings this year and has only issued five walks.
Realistically, all Quintana needs to get to 10 wins is have better-than-terrible luck. The White Sox have scored four or more runs in three of his four outings this year. That’s a start.
But Friday’s triple play helped, too. Who knows how things would’ve turned out had Eaton not got an excellent jump on Moreland’s line drive, or had Abreu not acrobatically tagged out Desmond, or had Tyler Saladino not decided to chase down Prince Fielder instead of Adrian Beltre. The triple play was the product of good White Sox defense and bad Rangers baserunning.
And too, it was a bit of good fortune for a guy who hasn’t had much of it in his career.
“That was fun,” Quintana said. “I’ve never seen that before. It happened to me, it was good luck.”