CHICAGO -- The shame of it all is that Jose Quintana is known more for being a hard-luck pitcher than he is for being an American League starter with unmatched consistency.
More evidence of his whatever-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong ways came in Thursday’s 4-2 defeat to the Oakland Athletics when he gave up just one run over seven innings, while his opponent barely scratched out four hits.
But in a manner only befitting of a Quintana start, David Robertson blew the save in the ninth inning when he gave up a three-run home run to Billy Butler. Making matters more unbelievable is that the ball likely got over the fence only because right fielder Avisail Garcia caught it for a brief second, then lost it into the A’s bullpen when he crashed into the chain link fence.
It was a black cat walking under a ladder while breaking a mirror, and while it wasn’t exactly Jose Canseco getting hit in the head by a fly ball only to have it bounce off his noggin and over the fence, it might as well have been.
When the tragicomedy ended, Quintana was denied his first 10-win season and instead was left holding his 50th no-decision since 2012, which leads the major leagues over that time.
“I’m just furious with myself,” said Robertson, who has seven blown saves on the season. “I just screwed up another win for one our starters who pitched his ass off. And I keep f------ doing it.”
Robertson quickly apologized for his salty language, but his energy would have been better utilized making amends with Quintana.
“(Quintana) is one of the hardest workers on this team,” Robertson said. “He gets a quality start almost every time he takes the ball. You can’t say enough about the guy. His record should be better. I can think of a couple of occasions and now I’ve messed one up for him again. It’s frustrating for me. I’ve got to be better.”
Victories are far from the truest way to determine a pitcher’s value, but it isn’t like they carry zero weight in the baseball world either. Just ask any pitcher going for a 20-win season. Quintana was striving for his first season of double-digit victories and now will have to wait another five days in order to make it happen.
“Well, I mean I’m trying to get more wins than last year,” said Quintana, who has nine victories in each of his last two seasons. “For the first time it would be 10, but that’s part of the game. I’ll try in the next one to get my first 10-win season.”
Quintana did become the first White Sox pitcher with 30 starts in three consecutive seasons since Mark Buehrle had 11 consecutive from 2001-11. And playing the numbers game between Quintana and Buehrle might be the best way to show just how much hard luck Quintana has experienced.
Over his first three consecutive seasons of at least 30 starts (2001-03), Buehrle had victory totals of 16, 19 and 14, while posting a combined ERA of 3.67. In his first three consecutive seasons of at least 30 starts, Quintana has nine victories in each of them, while posting a 3.41 ERA.
Crunch any other numbers you’d like, but it all comes back to either a lack of run support, no defense behind him or a lack of bullpen (or a combination of the three) that has either prevented him from getting the victory personally, or the White Sox from coming away winners even when he has performed well.
“We know he's a good pitcher; you don't question that at all,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Whether he's going to get some run support, that's the other question. Going out there, he's the same every day, he brings it every day.
“He's just very consistent about how he goes about his work, how he pitches, attitude, all that stuff that you'd like to see he does that every day. He doesn't hang his head on things like this. He knows guys are out there trying.”
That Quintana keeps grinding away even when everything around him continues to crumble might be his best attribute of all.
While the White Sox went out this past winter and found a No. 2 starter in Jeff Samardzija to compliment staff ace Chris Sale, the co-pilot role next year is expected to be Quintana’s. Getting his due has been a process for Quintana, even in his own organization, which knows how good he is.
Even Quintana can blush when the subject of his ability is broached. Quintana was asked about the growing number of scouts, who are putting him in the list of the game’s most consistent pitchers.
“Well, I’m surprised to hear that and I appreciate that,” he said. “I feel confidence in myself every time I go out there and every time I try to do the best I can do. I try to do my job better and better each time. Next time I will try to get a win.”
There Quintana goes again, promising to be better, vowing to improve.
“I never feel bad luck,” Quintana said. “It’s part of the game, it happens. Try to continue. Sometime that’ll change.”
And when it does, he finally will be known as a steady starter, instead of one that just can’t catch a break.