Quantrill looks like old self in finale win vs. Tigers

April 19th, 2023

DETROIT -- For a brief moment, the Guardians had to hold their collective breath.

was hunched over on the ground and seemed to be wincing in pain. He had just taken a 91.4 mph line drive off his right foot and was slow to get up. The Guardians’ medical staff met him at the mound, as he got up to walk back to the dugout, but he was clearly limping. For a rotation that’s already dealing with two injured starters, this could’ve been the worst case scenario.

The Guardians learned soon after -- as Quantrill regained the feeling in his foot as the numbness dissipated -- that he would be fine moving forward. But the team didn’t want to push its luck and decided to turn to the bullpen after Quantrill’s six strong frames, ending up escaping Detroit with a 3-2 victory at Comerica Park in Wednesday’s series finale, avoiding being swept for what would have been the first time this season.

“I thought he pitched really well,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Again, when we’re not scoring runs, that’s a harder way to pitch, too. But I thought he did good.”

The Guardians don’t have to worry about putting another starter on the injured list, and can instead focus on the positive steps Quantrill took in his scoreless six frames against the Tigers.

Quantrill had a rocky start to spring, though he closed it out with two strong appearances. He’s likewise had a slow start to the season, giving up five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings in his first start in Seattle before permitting three more runs in five frames against the Mariners at home. He showed small strides again in his last outing against the Nationals, allowing three runs in six innings, but now, Quantrill is zeroing in on where he thinks he should be.

Against the Tigers, Quantrill allowed just four hits in six scoreless innings. The righty walked one batter and struck out four. He entered the day with opponents owning a .300/.347/.429 slash line against him.

“First three outings, just didn’t feel like I had my delivery right,” Quantrill said. “Today was a little cleaner. I think we’re still building towards where we need to be.”

"We didn't put up great at-bats against him early,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “and that can be a credit to him. He came right at us.”

With Triston McKenzie (teres major strain) and Aaron Civale (oblique strain) both on the injured list, the Guardians need to be able to rely on their veterans. The team decided to send Hunter Gaddis to Triple-A Columbus prior to Wednesday’s series finale in Detroit, and will need to determine (at some point) which young arm will get the next opportunity to win the job.

If Quantrill can return to the groove he’s found in the last two seasons -- during which he went 23-8 with a 3.16 ERA -- the club can navigate these injury hurdles much more easily. But Quantrill isn’t letting himself feel the pressure of carrying extra weight in the rotation.

“You can only do what you can do, right?” Quantrill said. “I continue to go do my job, and I firmly believe that if everyone does theirs we’ll win a lot of baseball games.”

Quantrill found that rhythm he’s seen in the past two years on Wednesday, cruising through the first five frames without much trouble. It wasn’t until the sixth that he dealt with some traffic.

Matt Vierling doubled to start the frame. After back-to-back strikeouts, Javier Báez hit an infield single that put runners on the corners with two outs. That’s when Kerry Carpenter sent the liner back to the mound that hit Quantrill just below his right ankle. The ball didn’t roll far away, so with a runner charging home from third, Quantrill was able to quickly crawl to the ball and throw it to first to end the inning. That’s when he hunched over in pain.

“I think he was actually more upset that I took him out of the game,” Francona said. “I just thought from watching his reaction -- and when a guy’s up over 80 [pitches] -- that’s probably the wrong thing to do, to send him out there.”

Quantrill admitted that he wanted to continue to pitch. But instead, he was able to watch his team hang on to a one-run victory, knowing he had taken a step forward. And if he had to do it again, he would certainly get in the way of another line drive to put up another scoreless frame.

“Oh, heck yeah,” Quantrill said. “I’d wear one every single time to save a run.”