DETROIT — All he needed was a strike and Jose Quintana could have avoided what has developed into his worst possible matchup.
But instead of ending a long first inning against J.D. Martinez, Quintana issued his only walk to load the bases and it quickly came back to haunt him. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a grand slam, the first of two homers he hit off Quintana on Sunday afternoon in a 9-1 Detroit Tigers rout of the White Sox at Comerica Park.
Quintana couldn’t escape the fifth inning as he allowed a career-worst nine earned runs.
“It’s a tough lineup to go through, but you have to be a little more aggressive, have them swinging the bat,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He just seemed to be 3-2 on everybody. Unusual for him to really be like that, so you just chalk it up to a bad day for him.”
In a lineup loaded with rough matchups for Quintana, J.D. Martinez has been a relative safe haven. While four of his teammates entered Sunday with at least a .350 average against Quintana, the Tigers right fielder was 1-for-8 with a walk and two strikeouts.
But none of that matters, catcher Tyler Flowers said.
If Quintana is locating well, that should be enough. Even in his previous start on Wednesday night, Quintana got through six good innings against the Cleveland Indians with only command of his fastball.
“I couldn’t tell you who’d we’d rather take our shot with, both (J.D. Martinez and Cespedes) are good hitters,” Flowers said. “If we execute our pitches and the game plan, we’ll take our chances against any of them over there. That’s really what it’s more about.”
The lack of execution seemed to be biggest against J.D. Martinez, who came to the plate with two outs in the first inning on the heels of a Victor Martinez single to put runners on the corners. Already at 28 pitches, Quintana quickly got ahead in the count 0-2 but couldn’t put him away.
Quintana missed with three straight fastballs, two just off the outer edge, and couldn’t command his curveball, either.
The only walk Quintana issued brought up Cespedes, who had four hits in their previous six meetings, including two homers.
With the rain falling, Cespedes worked the count full before he ripped Quintana’s 40th pitch of the inning over the bullpen in left field for a grand slam.
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“It’s important for me to be ahead in the count,” Quintana said. “I got some balls up and you get a home run after that. The key today was throwing too many pitches in the first inning.
“Just a bad day. I have to forget it.”
It would get no easier for Quintana.
He gave up a leadoff triple in the second to James McCann and fell behind 5-0 on a Rajai Davis RBI single.
Then in the third, Cespedes struck again with a two-run homer off Quintana. The six RBIs are a career-high for Cespedes.
Quintana gave up two more doubles in the fifth inning and allowed 10 hits in four-plus innings.
“I know his mindset and the competitiveness he has,” Quintana said. “He’s not afraid of contact. … We’re trying to execute pitches perfectly and we were just missing a couple of times and that changes the whole at-bat.
“We just didn’t execute and when we got ahead of guys, we just didn’t execute putting them away and we ended up making a couple of mistakes.”