'An absolute gamer': Quantrill deals against former club

Rockies extend winning streak to 6, their longest since 2019

May 15th, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- was on the mound to begin the Rockies’ first winning streak of the year. He had no intention of being on the bump when it ended.

Pitching in the first big league ballpark he called home, Quantrill stymied the Padres into the seventh inning of the Rockies’ 6-3 victory at Petco Park on Tuesday night. Colorado stretched its winning streak to six games, the franchise’s longest since an eight-gamer from May 26-June 2, 2019.

Quantrill, acquired in a November trade with Cleveland, has bookend wins during the Rockies’ rise, leading a complete reversal by the starting rotation. Through last Wednesday, Rockies starting pitchers were 2-20 with a 6.33 ERA. During the streak, they are 4-0 with a 2.29 ERA.

“I’m seeing a competitor,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I’m seeing a guy who comes to win the game for his team. That’s his mantra. I’m still getting to know him a little bit, and it’s sort of fun getting to know new players. He’s built the right way.”

Quantrill held the Padres scoreless for six innings and departed after a leadoff walk to Jurickson Profar in the seventh. That runner came in to score during a three-run rally by San Diego, leaving Quantrill with a final line of six-plus innings, one run, six hits, three walks and five strikeouts.

There was plenty of traffic, as Quantrill had only one 1-2-3 inning, the third. But the right-hander thwarted every threat, notably inducing two inning-ending double plays and striking out Jackson Merrill to end the fourth.

After that strikeout -- Merrill flailed at a nasty, diving splitter -- Quantrill let out a scream before heading to the visitor’s dugout. It was reminiscent of his only other outing as an opponent at Petco Park.

Pitching for the Guardians in 2022, Quantrill punctuated seven scoreless innings with three fist-pumps on his way to that same dugout. In his two starts against the Padres in San Diego, Quantrill has allowed only one run over 13 innings.

“There’s no hatred there; I have some good friends on that team,” said Quantrill, the Padres’ first-round pick in 2016 but traded to Cleveland four years later. “I do feel it’s important to put my best foot forward here. It’s the team that gave me an opportunity to start at the big-league level.

“In a backwards way, I want to prove that I am exactly what they drafted.”

The year Quantrill was drafted, he played a few weeks with the Single-A Tri-City Dust Devils with a 17-year-old shortstop named Fernando Tatis Jr. They both broke into the Majors in 2019. Now the two are competitors.

“He was locating pretty well, just good location,” Tatis said. “ I mean, the guy's moving the ball, inside and outside. He just executed.”

One thing Tatis saw Tuesday that Quantrill didn’t have back in the day was that splitter. The righty started throwing it only last season. Now it’s his No. 2 pitch, behind his sinker, and serves essentially as a changeup.

“I’m still kind of learning what I can and cannot do with it,” Quantrill said. “I think there’s times I’ve probably pushed it to the edge and paid the price. That being said, it’s a fun pitch and I think it does balance hitters out for me. It allows me to do a little bit of work with my other pitches that I wasn’t able to do before.”

With only six whiffs among his 91 pitches -- three on the splitter -- keeping hitters off-balance was key Tuesday. Padres batters watched 16 called strikes and hit grounders when Quantrill needed them.

It’s not the repertoire that has most impressed Quantrill’s new ballclub, however. It’s the attitude.

“The guy is an absolute gamer,” said Ryan McMahon, whose sky-ball homer off Dylan Cease gave Quantrill a lead to work with. “He’s one of those guys that if he gave up 20 runs, you’d still be focused on defense because there’s no ‘give up’ in this guy.”

The same could be said of the Rockies, who dug themselves an 8-28 hole but now stand in position to claim their second straight series sweep with a victory Wednesday.

“I like the way we’re playing baseball right now,” Quantrill said. “As a starter, you try to set the tone and let them feed off it. But now, I feel I’m feeding off them. We’re playing great defense. We’re taking competitive at-bats the whole game, making it difficult on the opposing starting pitcher. We’re sending that energy back and forth.

“It’s been a really nice week for us. Trust me, we worked hard for this. It was a tough start to the year. We’re not taking this for granted, and we’re going to try to keep it rolling.”