Quintana pummeled early as Twins, Santana blank White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS — The “trade Jose Quintana now” rally criers of the offseason and spring training said “I told you so” Saturday after the White Sox’ ace got clobbered for five runs in the first inning of a 6-0 loss to the Twins at Target Field.

As blue-chip stocks go, Quintana’s appeared to be plummeting by the at-bat during a barrage of hits in the first inning. The Twins peppered the Sox All-Star lefty with a double-single-double-single flurry, totaling six hits and sending 11 batters to the plate.

The 5-0 lead was more than enough for Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, who improved to 3-0 with a dazzling one-hit shutout.

Quintana, to his credit, regrouped, as he has done numerous times after a bad inning. He didn’t allow a run after that, throwing 5⅔ innings.

Jose Quintana, center, gets a visit to the mound by pitching coach Don Cooper in the first inning. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

“He left some pitches early that were very hittable,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “But once he got through the first, he settled in, started hitting his spots and mixing the secondary pitches better. But all in all, like I told the guys, he gave us a chance.’’

Renteria seemed to be saying that his pitcher didn’t cave in to the score, so his hitters shouldn’t, either.

“Honestly. You have nine innings,’’ he said. “They score five early, I get it, but we had [eight] innings left of baseball to come back and try to chip away.’’

That was rough sledding against Santana, who owns an all-world ERA of 0.41 after holding the Royals to two hits in seven innings, the Sox to two hits in six and then the Sox again to one hit in nine.

Santana walked one and gave up a line single to Omar Narvaez in the third. He retired the last 18 Sox he faced after walking Avisail Garcia, who went hitless for the first time this season.

“We weren’t able to really get comfortable in the box, and he did it throughout the whole game,’’ said Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .140. “He does the same thing every time we face him. We just haven’t made the adjustment.’’

Quintana entered with an 0-2 record and 6.17 ERA, a start that caught most by surprise after his five consecutive seasons of consistently good starts and a dominating performance in the World Baseball Classic and spring training. All of which, coupled with the front office’s designs on rebuilding, have made him the most talked about trade piece.

Quintana gave up six runs in 5⅓ innings against the Tigers in the season opener, then held the Twins to two runs in 6⅓ innings last Sunday. Throw in his performance Saturday, and he gets low marks for the one thing that has been his forte — consistency.

Quintana said he slowed his tempo after the first inning and was happy to have regrouped and limit the damage, but it was too late.

“Too many runs in the first inning,’’ he said. “That changed the game. But I learned that today. It’s a confidence in me. I know that I started a little slow, but that happens.’’

Sox pitching entered the day ranked first in ERA in the American League. Oddly enough, Quintana has been the weakest link, with starters Derek Holland (1.50 ERA in two outings), James Shields (1.69 ERA in two), Dylan Covey (1.69 in one) and Miguel Gonzalez (4.22 in two) carrying the freight.

But it’s early. Those numbers will even out, and Quintana’s will rise to the top.

The Sox are banking on that to happen, for the sake of a rotation that’s without Carlos Rodon for who knows how long, as well as for their portfolio of trade chips as they build for the future.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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