PHOENIX — Jose Quintana looked as if he might be on the way to a second consecutive gem on Wednesday afternoon before it quickly took a turn for the worse.
After three perfect frames, Quintana got hit hard in the middle innings and was forced out of the contest. The Arizona Diamondbacks offense awoke from an early slumber against Quintana to complete a sweep of the White Sox, who fell 8-6 in front of 18,002 at Chase Field. The eight earned runs allowed by Quintana are the most he has yielded in a start in two years and raised his earned-run average to 4.82.
“For us it’s also a tough thing to figure because he has been so great in his career,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s something that we are not accustomed to seeing from him. But he’s a hard worker and we all know how talented he is and we’re all confident in him. I think it’s just a matter of one thing for him to clean it up and to be that Jose Quintana that we know.”
None of what transpired in the first three innings Wednesday offered any indication of what was to come. The 2016 All-Star pitcher picked up where he’d left off on Friday night in Seattle when he combined with David Robertson on a one-hitter.
Quintana’s offspeed pitchers were diving and Diamondbacks hitters had no chance. He induced checked swing after checked swing and racked up five strikeouts in three innings and even made a smooth defensive play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt-base hit attempt to start the fourth inning with the White Sox leading 2-0.
But then it all went south.
Nick Ahmed doubled to left and red-hot Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep center to make it a 2-1 game before Chris Owings tied it with an RBI single. Things only got worse for Quintana in the fifth inning when he hit the first hitter Brandon Drury with a 1-2 pitch. Quintana then left a 1-0 fastball over the middle and Jake Lamb didn’t miss the mistake, driving it the opposite way for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Ahmed doubled in a pair and the rout was on. Goldschmidt’s single knocked Quintana from the game.
Owings had a sac fly off Anthony Swarzak to score one inherited run and Drury singled in the other to put Arizona ahead by six.
Quintana allowed eight hits and struck out seven. The eight runs he allowed were the most he’d allowed in a start since the Detroit Tigers tagged him for nine runs on April 19, 2015.
“It’s just execution,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Most times when guys are being hit around, a lot of it has more to do with executing and location. I think it’s more pitches get out over the plate. ... Based on the swings, they were pretty good swings, so I’m assuming they were pitches out over the plate.”
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The poor outing raised Quintana’s earned-run average by nearly a point from 3.92. Even though it’s still more than two months until the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline, Quintana’s inconsistent start to the season has also almost certainly harmed his perceived trade value. Not only has Quintana pitched poorly, but shifts in the plans of other clubs could provide contending teams with more trade options. However, with teams still focused on the upcoming draft and the deadline a way off, Quintana has more than enough time to get back on track.
Quintana said he plans to do what he’s always done — discard the tough outing and move on. It’s the same way he has operated since 2012 and it has helped become a highly regarded member of the White Sox.
“Just turn the page and keep going,” Quintana said. “It’s different feeling than last year. But I feel pretty good. Never think in the past. If you have a bad day, just keep going. Keep doing, we doing good in the past. So, just keep doing my things and throw the ball well.”
One player who has continued to stay hot for more than a month is Abreu, who blasted his 100th homer on Tuesday night. For an encore, Abreu matched his career high with four hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning that got the White Sox to within 8-4.
Melky Cabrera had an RBI groundout in the seventh inning and Abreu singled in another to make it an 8-6 game.
But the White Sox got no closer.
Leury Garcia’s solo homer in the second inning gave the White Sox an early lead. Abreu doubled in the fourth and scored on a double play to make it a 2-0 lead.
From April 19 on, Abreu is hitting .347/.404/.677 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances. He’s currently on pace for 36 home runs, which would tie the career high he established in 2014.