Of course, the Mets are left to wonder if things might have been different if Jose Quintana had been healthy to pitch for the entire 2023 season because the early returns through his first four starts with the club have been “as advertised,” according to Mets manager Buck Showalter.
Don’t let his 0-3 record fool you. The 34-year-old southpaw has eaten innings effectively for a starting rotation that, at first, needed support but now just needs warm bodies to get them through the remainder of the season — even if it isn’t done effectively given the team’s new tanking philosophy after the trade deadline.
Quintana has gone six or more innings in three of his first four starts as a member of the Mets after signing a two-year deal over the winter and recovering from rib surgery to remove a benign lesion back in March. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start, including three outings in which he’s held the opposition to just two earned runs.
After going 6.2 innings on Aug. 1 against the Kansas City Royals in which he allowed three runs on six hits in a 7-6 extra-inning loss, Quintana ventured into the seventh inning on Sunday against the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, yielding just a pair of runs on six hits with a season-high six strikeouts.
“Everyone is getting a glimpse of what he can do for us the rest of this year and next year,” Showalter said. “He’s as advertised.”
Yet he was saddled with a hard-luck loss — and unfair earned runs on his ledger — as his defense let him down.
Moments after the Mets left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning to waste their biggest chance of the afternoon on their way to being shutout, center fielder Rafael Ortega whiffed on a line drive hit by Orioles outfielder Jorge Mateo, resulting in a one-out triple.
Mark Vientos then bobbled a hard-hit grounder that would have created a play at the plate if fielded cleanly to give the Orioles what became the game-winning run.
Danny Mendick’s hesitation at second base, although it was fueled by the umpire blocking his view, withheld another play at the plate that would have easily nabbed James McCann trying to score from third in the seventh.
Despite getting the loss, Quintana lowered his ERA to 3.42 this season as he continues to emerge as a legitimate middle-of-the-rotation arm for a Mets team that needs to revamp its stable of starters after trading away Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
“We knew that’s what he could do,’’ Showalter said. “That’s why we signed him. I was afraid we might lose him [at the trade deadline]… I’m glad he’s ours.”
The potential continuity of Quintana would provide the Mets with one less item to address on their offseason checklist. They’re in need of at least one top-tier starter to support Kodai Senga, who is in the midst of an All-Star debut season in the majors. But depth is still very much an issue as the only other pitchers under contract next season with legitimate MLB experience are David Peterson, Tylor Megill, and Joey Lucchesi.