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Maybe things are changing for Jose Quintana, White Sox

Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 11, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS – Maybe things are different for the White Sox this season.

If they score some runs for Jose Quintana, still one of the best-kept pitching secrets in baseball, maybe the Sox will take advantage of their No. 2 starter’s talent and help him reach double-digit wins in 2016.

The Sox scored four, not a barrage by any means, but more than enough for Quintana, who threw six innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 victory that hiked the Sox’ tidy record to 5-2. The bullpen provided three scoreless innings and the Twins, losing their home opener, were sent home to ponder an 0-7 start over Tuesday’s off day.

With remarkably steady ERAs of 3.51, 3.32 and 3.36 while covering 200 innings in each of the last three seasons, Quintana has only nine wins in each of those years to show for it. While W’s may not mean as much to front office and metrics people as they used to, rest assured they mean plenty to pitchers. And to teammates, coaches and a manager who hold Quintana in the highest regard.

When Austin Jackson’s hooking deep fly with the bases loaded off right-hander Kyle Gibson headed toward a will-it-or-won’t-it destination toward the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning, Sox manager Robin Ventura tried to will it fair. Hearing him recount it  provided a deeper understanding of how badly the Sox want Quintana to have something more to show for his quality body of work.

“Awwwh,’’ Ventura said. “Even after it went foul you’re hoping Q has something go his way. And it did. That next hit was a big one.’’

Jackson got back in the box and singled in two runs to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. Brett Lawrie had punched in a run with a single to center through a drawn-in infield in the second and Todd Frazier doubled in a cushion run in the ninth, scoring Jose Abreu from first.

Matt Albers extended his scoreless appearance streak to 24 dating to last year in the seventh, Zach Duke and Nate Jones combined on a scoreless eighth and David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in as many chances.

And Quintana, who pitched well enough to win his first start but took a no-decision in Oakland, got his W.

And everyone in the Sox clubhouse celebrated with him.

“Everybody pulls for him because he’s just such a teammate and good person,’’ said Ventura, who is reminded of former teammate Jim Abbott when he observes Quintana on and off the mound. “Everybody is pulling for him. You genuinely like the guy.’’

“I haven’t seen [a bad day from Quintana] yet. He’s as consistent as anybody and it’s not just with his attitude coming in here but it’s his work. He’s as solid as it gets.’’

 

Quintana, who hasn’t lost in 10 consecutive starts dating to last year (he has four wins during that stretch), avoided the 54th no-decision of a career that began in 2012. He believes this is the year he gets in the habit of doing that because he believes this team is different.

“Absolutely,’’ he said after allowing four hits and three walks while strike out five. “I feel this is the year for no more no-decisions. When you come into the ballpark every day, you come in excited for it because you have a new team, the real thing. We’ve got to change [after three consecutive losing seasons].’’

By reaching 30 starts, 200 innings and striking out 160 or more batters in the last three seasons, Quintana joined a club that includes Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Max Scherzer and James Shields. That’s good company.

Well-rehearsed in shaking off a tough loss or no-decision, Quintana admits to some levels of frustration but he knows that can come with the territory. And he’s confident this is in the past.

“That’s not only me,’’ he said. A couple of other pitchers have the same [bad luck] too. But I just try to do my job and that’s it. Go to the mound, try to get quick outs and give my team a good chance to win.’’