'Tough' Quintana delivers when Sox need it

CHICAGO -- Ever since Jose Quintana earned his first call-up to the Chicago White Sox in May, manager Robin Ventura has been in his young pitcher’s corner.

The way Quintana pitches -- simple but effective -- and his ability to fight through each outing drew Ventura’s admiration from the beginning. Ventura described Quintana as “tough” within days of his arrival, and the description hasn’t changed five months later.

Ventura dropped the word “tough” three more times Monday while touting what may have been the most significant start in Quintana’s young career. After Quintana appeared to be headed to the showers early for his third consecutive start, he bounced back and shut down the Detroit Tigers, allowing them one run in 7 2/3 innings, to key a 6-1 win at U.S. Cellular Field.

“Again, he’s a tough kid,” said Ventura, whose team’s lead was extended to three games over the Tigers in the AL Central. “He’s a very tough kid, tough-minded.”

As tough as Quintana may be, he admitted afterward he had his moment of doubt somewhere in the early innings of Monday’s game.

Quintana’s previous two starts had been disastrous. He allowed five hits, seven runs and two walks in 1 1/3 innings in his last start and seven hits, five runs and one walk in 3 2/3 innings two starts ago.

He appeared headed down that same path again on Monday. He allowed four hits and one run in the second inning and began the third inning by walking Austin Jackson and giving up a single to Ryan Raburn. By then a call had already been made to the White Sox’s bullpen, and Dylan Axelrod was preparing to make another long-relief appearance.

Quintana felt the déjà vu, and it scared him for an instant.

“I would say it might have crept into my head for a split second,” Quintana said through a team translator.

And that’s when the toughness Ventura loves about Quintana prevailed. With two balls and one walk on Miguel Cabrera, Quintana delivered his 51st pitch of the game, a 93 mph fastball, which Cabrera hit to shortstop Alexei Ramirez and was turned into a 6-4-3 double play.

From there, Quintana was a different pitcher.

He struck out Prince Fielder looking to close out the third inning. He retired the side in the fourth inning. He allowed one hit in the fifth inning. He retired the side in the sixth inning and did it again in the seventh.

After recording two outs in the eighth inning, Quintana walked Rabun, and his night was over. As Ventura made his way to the mound, Quintana’s infield surrounded him and slapped him on the back. After Ventura took the ball and did the same, the White Sox’s crowd rose and applauded Quintana as he made his way into the dugout.

“(I felt) really happy,” Quintana said of the moment. “I wanted to do the job to help the team. In doing so, the fans got a good show.”

Ventura, of course, was proud again of his tough pitcher.

“One of the things he has is a lot of guts,” Ventura said. “We trust him. He’s earned that. He pitched a heck of a game.”