Quantrill's start a positive in walk-off loss

Indians right-hander goes 6 strong innings; Wittgren tagged for decisive HR

August 1st, 2021

CHICAGO -- For the second time in four outings, Indians reliever was handed a loss, resulting in starter 's efforts being for naught.

Cleveland started to run into a tough stretch with its bullpen as soon as the calendar flipped to July. But as the relievers have started to run out of gas, the starters seem to be settling in more than they were in June. And that was the case in a 2-1 walk-off loss to the White Sox on a homer by Brian Goodwin off Wittgren on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The bullpen was one of the Indians' strongest assets for the first two months of the season, posting a 2.88 ERA in that span. As more injuries plagued the starting rotation, more innings were getting picked up by relievers, and suddenly the strong performances started to wane.

Since the All-Star break, the bullpen collectively pitched to a 5.40 ERA entering Sunday’s rubber match and has been one of the biggest reasons why Cleveland has dropped a handful of one-run games. After Sunday’s loss, the Indians are now 17-15 in such games.

“This is good baseball,” said Quantrill, who logged six three-hit innings, yielding one unearned run and four walks to go with six strikeouts. “I don’t know what more people could have asked for today. That’s a really good game. [The White Sox are] a good team. They’re making trades. They’re trying to make a push. I think we’re trying to show that we belong. That’s a great game that was played right there. Hopefully we continue to have good ones.”

Cleveland fell back to .500, but still had at least one positive takeaway, despite the offense only mustering four hits, which included a solo homer from newly-acquired center fielder Myles Straw: Quantrill is settling into his starting role.

here had been question marks surrounding how Quantrill would impact the roster since he was acquired at last year’s Trade Deadline from San Diego in the Mike Clevinger deal. Quantrill worked out of the ‘pen in 2020 and was going to be an option to open the year in the rotation for ‘21, but he was beat out by Logan Allen and Triston McKenzie.

And when Quantrill was eventually given the chance to transition into a starter role at the end of May, it took him some time to find his footing. But now that he has, he’s started to catch a lot of attention.

“He's been consistent,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “You know, it's interesting, I kind of see him evolving with some of his pitches. I thought he went to his changeup a little bit and got some foul balls, some pulled fouls, which really got him back even in the count. He was able to make some of his other pitches to get outs.”

Sunday’s start marked his fourth six-inning outing in his last five starts. In that span, he’s 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA (six earned runs, 29 innings) with 19 strikeouts, while holding opponents to a .194 average.

“I feel like we’ve had good rhythm for the last two or three games,” Quantrill said. “I feel like [catcher Roberto Pérez] and I are starting to get more comfortable with how we want to approach hitters.”

Cleveland’s rotation has battled a fair share of command issues. The young starters, especially, have struggled to prevent bad innings from snowballing into even worse outings. And one of the biggest takeaways from Quantrill over this hot stretch is that he’s been able to work himself out of trouble if he gets into it, like he demonstrated against the White Sox after issuing four free passes. Sometimes, the answer is as simple as building confidence.

“I think that’s kind of what it is,” Quantrill said. “It’s just realizing how you want to go ahead and pitch that guy and get that guy out. … For the most part, it’s just about, ‘I’m gonna get this guy out.’ If I focus on that and he happens to hit into a double play, great. If he flies out, just as good. I think it’s just staying focused, not allowing what happened before to influence how you’re going to pitch the next guy.”

The Indians haven’t thrown in the towel on the 2021 season. The team is hoping its extremely young roster can continue to find ways to develop at the big league level while being successful. But if the club starts looking toward ‘22, Quantrill is certainly making a convincing case of why he belongs in the future rotation.

“We think Cal is a good Major League pitcher and we think he can be an effective starter or a weapon in the bullpen,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “What that role ends up being in the long term, we’ll have to see.”