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CLEVELAND — If the Guardians are able to hold onto their lead in the American League Central and advance to the Wild Card Series, they have no shortage of starters who could take the hill in Game 1 of the postseason’s opening round.
It’s time to add Cal Quantrill to that list.
On Tuesday, Quantrill closed out his stellar month of August with another gem, tossing six innings of one-hit ball in Cleveland’s series-opening 5-1 win over the Orioles at Progressive Field.
“I had confidence that the boys were going to score some runs,” Quantrill said. “I knew if I kept us in the game, we were going to win. It was kind of a grind. I didn’t pitch all that well today, but I was able to keep them off the board for the most part.”
While Quantrill’s final line was sparkling, he spent the early portion of the outing dancing around trouble, needing 55 pitches to get through the first three frames. Baltimore’s lone run came in the second inning, when Ram?n Ur?as led the inning off with a single and later scored on a Ryan Mountcastle sacrifice fly.
After allowing a two-out walk to Anthony Santander in the third, Quantrill found another gear and retired the next 10 Orioles he faced before departing.
“The walk [to Santander] bothered me,” Quantrill said. “The only danger I put myself in was by walking guys. It fired me up a little bit and I started attacking the zone a little more and keeping myself out of bad counts.”
Despite allowing three walks overall (the most he had given up in a game since May 25), Quantrill still managed to go at least six innings for the sixth straight start — all of which came in August. He finished the month with a 4-0 record and a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings.
“I thought the line was great, but there were some balls that were hit hard and he had some deep counts,” manager Terry Francona said. “But there are also some games where you pitch well and give up some ones you shouldn’t, so good for him and good for us.”
Quantrill’s nearly spotless line was due in part to rookie outfielder Will Benson, who made an outstanding catch at the center-field wall in the fifth inning. After the Guardians took the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a Josh Naylor two-run home run, Rougned Odor led off the ensuing frame with a Statcast-projected 104.2 mph rocket that came complete with a bat flip.
Instead of rounding the bases, however, Odor went back to the dugout shaking his head, as Benson leaped into the air and robbed Odor of at least extra bases, preserving the Guardians’ one-lead lead. Despite coming into the contest with only two starts in center field at Progressive Field under his belt, Benson handled the park’s tricky dimensions like a veteran on the play, as he took a near-perfect route to the ball and timed his jump with precision.
“I try to take those batting practice opportunities pretty seriously, because that’s when you can get acclimated to the field,” Benson said.
With everyday center fielder Myles Straw mired in a 7-for-74 slump throughout August, Benson could be in line for more starting opportunities in September. If his performance on Tuesday was any indication, Benson appears to be ready.
“Will’s an extremely talented player and you just saw pieces of that today; he can do anything,” Quantrill said. “It’s awesome watching him play with confidence. Sometimes we have all the confidence in the world in the rookies, and they need to feel what we feel.
“I think he felt that today.”