Baseball statistics always have validated left-hander Jose Quintana’s standing as one of the game’s better pitchers.
Even before he was named to his first All-Star team last season, Quintana boasted numbers equal to some of the game’s elite pitchers.
He entered his start Sunday against the Twins ranked among the best American League pitchers since 2013: first in starts (130), third in quality starts (86) and seventh in ERA (3.39) and strikeouts (702).
He is one of six pitchers to post 200-plus innings and 30 or more starts in each of the last four seasons, joining Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Max Scherzer.
He was in Chris Sale’s shadow before, but his talent never was lost in the baseball world, and it’s why he remains a coveted trade target despite his rocky start to the season.
Quintana has lost both his starts, including the 4-1 defeat in the rubber game against the Twins.
But he looked more like the All-Star pitcher of old than the one who struggled in his first Opening Day start last week against the Tigers in which he gave up six runs in 5„ innings.
‘‘He didn’t make mistakes,’’ shortstop Tim Anderson said. ‘‘He was Quintana. He’s been doing it a long time.
‘‘He’s one of those guys that when he steps on the mound, we feel we’ll win. We feel like that with all our teammates, but I definitely feel he’ll build off this.’’
Quintana allowed five hits in 6„ innings and trailed only 1-0 before Jorge Polanco homered to start the seventh.
He struck out seven and walked one.
But the other aspect of his Sox history — minimal run support — resurfaced.
Twins starter Ervin Santana (2-0) lowered his ERA to 0.69, keeping the Sox scoreless on two singles through six innings.
‘‘I thought Quintana threw well and kept us in the ballgame,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘We didn’t do it on the other side against Santana.’’
The Sox had chances — they stranded 10, including the bases loaded in the eighth when they scored their only run after Brandon Kintzler (third save) hit Avisail Garcia to force in a run.
The Twins, who are off to a surprising 5-1 start, had added two runs in the eighth on Miguel Sano’s home run off Nate Jones.
‘‘I felt pretty good and my command was better than the first game,’’ said Quintana, who has had a history of trouble against the Twins (0-3, 5.04 ERA in his last four starts against them).
‘‘I was frustrated with the pitch [to Polanco for the home run]. It was a 1-2 count. I was trying to go away and get him to chase, but he hit the ball well.
‘‘I was frustrated and got a little emotional, but it happens. It’s the beginning of the season. You just keep going.’’
Quintana’s performance reinforced what the Sox have come to expect from him.
‘‘One of the things as a pitcher is you know what’s working well for you,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘You’re able to work through things like he did today.
‘‘Even if you look at how he approaches the day-to-day, he maneuvers and shows the wherewithal and tenacity to work a game. He got some first-pitch outs [in the second after giving up a double to Sano and walking Jason Castro to start the inning]. That is what a No. 1 pitcher does.’’
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