Jose Quintana can go ahead and take his seat among the elite.
The 27-year-old left-hander has long been excluded from the upper echelon of pitchers because of some bad luck and the long shadow cast by ace Chris Sale.
But as the final month of the 2016 regular season nears, Quintana has the numbers — and the confidence — to stake his claim as one of the best pitchers in the game.
A quick glance at the American League pitching leaders bears this out. Quintana is in the top 10 in innings, ERA and WAR for pitchers. He’s actually ahead of Sale in those last two stats.
“He has come a long way as far as getting himself into that next category,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said, “which is guys that you count on. And getting up into that elite category.”
Quintana (11-9) left the Sox’ 9-3 victory Saturday against the Mariners to a standing ovation after 7‰ innings. He allowed one earned run and five hits and struck out eight.
It was his ninth quality start in his last 10 outings.
Quintana continues to up his career high with each victory. He won only nine games in each of the last three seasons despite posting ERAs of 3.51, 3.32 and 3.36.
“His bread and butter is that fastball command, and then he’s got a swing-and-miss breaking ball to go with that,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He’s always going to be tough because he commands the ball. That’s the key.”
The kind of offense that supported him against the Mariners largely has been absent throughout his career. The Sox have scored one run or fewer in 11 of Quintana’s last 19 starts. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in 16.
In 145 career starts, Quintana has received two or fewer runs of support in 83 games, three runs or fewer in 103.
Quintana has persevered through the bad luck and been one of the most reliable arms the last two seasons. He has allowed four earned runs or fewer in 47 of his last 49 starts dating to May 30, 2015.
“It was amazing to come back to the mound with more confidence,” Quintana said of all the run support.
“That’s why I threw my first pitch for a strike. What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me. It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored.”
Though his raw stats aren’t substantially better than they have been in the last three seasons, Quintana finally earned an All-Star selection this year. He was tabbed as a replacement after Indians right-hander Danny Salazar opted out with a sore elbow.
Pitching behind Sale and for a poor-performing Sox team have made it difficult for Quintana to enjoy the limelight. But going to the All-Star Game along with Sale allowed him to forge his own reputation as one of the game’s best.
“I think his confidence has gotten him to a point where now he feels like he’s in that [elite] group, as well,” Ventura said. “People around the league understand that, too.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais got a close-up glimpse.
“Quintana’s been very good,” he said. “Obviously, he pitched in the All-Star Game, so he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t miss. He’s out on the edges. With our lineup, with our left-handed hitters, he kept them off-balance.”
Follow me on Twitter @davidjustCST.