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HOUSTON — Guardians pitcher Cal Quantrill is no stranger to pitching in series finales this season, as he’s posted a quality start four times in that situation, continuing that trend Wednesday night against Houston.
The Guardians came out on the wrong end of a pitching duel, however, as Quantrill was charged with two runs on six hits and four walks over six innings in a 2-1 loss to Cristian Javier and the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
“I thought he was terrific,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “I thought he competed like crazy. I think when he goes out there, we are going to have a chance to win. I don’t care who we’re playing.”
It was no coincidence that the Astros’ top of the order struggled against Quantrill. He has been efficient against the top-five hitters in lineups, with an average of .189 from those batters entering Wednesday. Quantrill held the Astros’ top of the lineup — Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel — to just three hits and one RBI.
The damage against Quantrill has come from the sixth through nine spots, with a .298 batting average entering Wednesday. That continued as Astros No. 9 hitter Jose Siri gave Quantrill trouble by going 2-for-2 with a double and a run.
Quantrill’s ability to maneuver through jams is what limited the Astros’ runs. In the third inning, the bases were loaded after a single by Siri and walks to Brantley and Alvarez, but he got Gurriel to fly out to right.
He limited the damage again in the fifth when the Astros had runners on the corners with no outs. Brantley hit a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0, but Myles Straw was able to throw out Altuve trying to advance to second base.
“It’s a balance and you have to pick and choose your battles,” Quantrill said. “You need to give your team a chance to win over the course of nine innings. The first time I thought it was very important to hold them to no runs. The second time I thought it was important to not let that become bigger than it is. Obviously, we always strive for zero, but I think we’ve managed difficult innings.”
Quantrill held up his end of the deal, but the Guardians’ bats had a rough night against Javier, who struck out six of the first seven batters he faced.
It has been a trend in Quantrill’s starts to receive little run support. Outside his lone win against the Royals when they scored 13 runs while he was in the game, he has received just seven runs of support in his other seven starts. He received none on Wednesday, with the Guardians’ lone run coming in the seventh after he was pulled.
“I think you hold yourself accountable,” Quantrill said. “I lost the game in the sixth by walking Yordan Alvarez. You can sit there and beg for eight runs and sometimes they will give it to you, but in the end, I only control what I can control. So to me, when I look at that game, I can’t walk the leadoff hitter, and that came back to bite me. And the next time we will score 10, so it all evens out at the end.”
Quantrill has been a reliable starter since he became a full-time member of the rotation in June 2021. He has led the team in wins (nine) and strikeouts (121) during that span while posting a 2.97 ERA, which is fourth in the AL.
His outing on Wednesday made it seven quality starts in the last eight games from the Guardians’ rotation.
“We’re playing good baseball right now,” Quantrill said. “That’s a good team there, and we gave them everything they can handle. I think that bodes well for us. We have to continue to put together good at-bats and quality starts, and the wins are going to start coming.”