A lot of air was already out of the Opening Day balloon before Jose Quintana’s first pitch Tuesday, what with a rainy day frowning on the White Sox and what would’ve been a near-sellout crowd Monday at newly named Guaranteed Rate Field.
Quintana tried to revive some of that buzz in the delayed opener Tuesday afternoon, and with an assist from leadoff man Tyler Saladino, who singled against Justin Verlander to open the first and scored on Melky Cabrera’s double, the 2017 season was off to a nice little start.
But then Quintana, of all people, the always-steady All-Star performer making his first Opening Day start, got clobbered for five runs in the second inning, taking away what life there was among an estimated 10,000 fans who had the wherewithal to come back.
“His command wasn’t what he wanted it to be,’’ Rick Renteria said, 0-1 after managing his first game with the Sox.
Verlander made sure the runs were enough by being his old self after the first and becoming the first Detroit starter since left-hander Mickey Lolich in 1970 to strike out 10 on Opening Day in the Tigers’ 6-3 victory.
The Sox had five players in their lineup starting on Opening Day for the first time, and while none would admit to a case of the jitters, with the exception of Saladino (two hits and a walk), they all had forgettable games. Quintana allowed six runs, five hits (including three home runs) and three walks in 5„ innings, shortstop Tim Anderson was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, catcher Omar Narvaez was 0-for-3 with a walk and center fielder Jacob May, making his major-league debut, was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Quintana’s three homers allowed matched a career high. He confidently shook it off as a bad day at the office, although he’s 2-4 with a 6.41 ERA in his last seven starts dating to Sept. 1 of last season. He was sharp during Cactus League games and nearly unhittable in his World Baseball Classic start for Colombia against Team USA, however.
“It was Opening Day, and that’s special,’’ Quintana said. “I feel blessed and honored to be here for that. I hope the next time is better.’’
With so much speculation surrounding him as a valuable trade piece in the Sox’ rebuilding scheme, there was no getting around the knee-jerk wisecracks about his value plummeting in one start.
“Just chalk it up to an anomaly, and you expect when he gets back out there again that he’ll be his old self,’’ Renteria said.
“He missed some spots,’’ said Narvaez, who caught Quintana five times last season. “It wasn’t his best day. We have to give credit to them, too. They’re good hitters. We didn’t execute.’’
The Tigers’ first three runs came on JaCoby Jones’ first career homer and the next two on Nick Castellanos’ opposite-field homer with two outs. After that second inning, Quintana was fine, save for Ian Kinsler’s homer with nobody on and two outs in the fourth.
The score was stuck at 6-2 until the ninth, when the Sox put two runners on with no outs against right-hander Shane Greene, forcing Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to bring in closer Francisco Rodriguez. F-Rod retired Narvaez and May (his good for an RBI) on groundouts and Saladino on a foul pop to end a game that didn’t really feel like a genuine opener.
The Sox had gone through Opening Day ceremonies the day before, and the crowd was less than a third of what it would’ve been.
“It was smaller, but Opening Day is Opening Day,’’ Todd Frazier said. “We’re excited either way. Not many people get to experience that. Was it different? Yeah. At the same time, it was a lot of people’s first Opening Day, and there were some jitters.’’
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