For a Cleveland Guardians pitcher to get a win right now, they have to be damn-near perfect (and sometimes that’s not even good enough). It just so happens that damn-near perfect is exactly what Cal Quantrill was today, as the Guardians offense did just enough to support his no-hit bid and beat the Twins, 2-0.
Through seven one-hit innings, Quantrill avoided damage from hard contact and survived a three-walk inning to turn in his most impressive start of the season. This is the second start in a row that he has gone seven innings deep, and the fourth he has gone at least six innings.
Now, I say “avoided damage from hard contact” as a very nice way to say that he was still hit hard today a few times, but most of those were hit right at defenders or in the dirt. All six balls that the Twins hit over 94 mph were outs — a pair of flyouts and four groundouts. It wasn’t even those hard hits that almost undid him, though. It was the three-straight walks to lead off the second inning that made it look like this was going to be a microscopic outing for Quantrill.
But with the bases loaded and no outs, he buckled down, first with an infield fly, then this double play dribbler that allowed Gabriel Arias to show off his absolute rocket of an arm at shortstop.
This is the kind of play that can ruin a game if it isn’t made, and I don’t know how many shortstops make it. That’s not even an anti-Amed Rosario sentiment or anything, it’s simply not a throw that everyone would make as easily as Arias made it look. Instead of a run scoring because the throw isn’t hard enough — or, heaven forbid, because the shortstop doesn’t catch the relay cleanly — the inning was over and Quantrill was pumped out of his mind heading back to the dugout. It can’t be overstated how important this play was; the Guardians’ win expectancy went from 59.6% to 75.4% after it was made.
Cal capitalized and was almost flawless from that point on. Minnesota’s first hit didn’t come until an Alex Kirloff single in the seventh inning — because of course a guy coming off an injury making his second start of the year would break up a no-hitter. Quantrill also walked Joey Gallo in the next at-bat but struck out Jose Miranda to end the inning, as well as his day, on a high note.
This was undoubtedly Quantrill’s best start of the season, and it was also the first time he was able to fully utilize his newly developed splitter as he faced the Twins lineup multiple times. He leaned on his sinker 40 times, of course, to go with his cutter 23 times and a dozen curveballs. He only threw the splitter 11 times, but five of those came in the seventh inning, his final of the game, when he was facing Twins betters for the third time. Two of those splitters in the seventh went for swings and misses, while the other three went for balls in an attempt to get batters to fish.
Overall, an excellent outing for Quantrill as he looks to put some rough outings earlier this year behind him. Along with some defensive help, he turned a potential disaster into a brilliant win. In other words, on a scale of “Sick As A Dog After a Loss Cal” to “Pristine 1950’s Movie Star Cal,” today’s game ranks right about here:
On the other hand, the offense did nothing to put their rough days behind them. A first-inning outburst — four hits, two runs — got things off to a good start, but they fizzled almost immediately. Steven Kwan, Josh Bell, and Gabriel Arias all finished with multiple hits, and Arias had the only extra-base hit with a double. I doubt this means Arias will be getting regular starts at shortstop as long as Rosario wears a Guardians uniform, but between his stellar defense and a couple of promising at-bats, he proved he deserves to stick around a little longer. Will Brennan may have also proved that he deserves to have some of his at-bats taken away in favor of Arias.
I’ll leave you with the most beautiful sight of all from this surprisingly delightful game:
(technically rounded up from 99.7 mph and on a pitch he walked a guy, but that’s neither here nor there)