José Quintana was claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on August 30th, 2021. He elected free agency on October 15th, thus ending his one and a half month long tenure with the San Francisco Giants.
In that time he pitched a total of 9.2 innings and appeared in 5 games. But no matter how brief the run, Quintana–much like Warren Spahn and Carlos Beltran–can legally claim to be #forevergiant, thus he is worthy of our scholarship.
Quintana, a ten year veteran, was signed with the hopes of being a multi-inning option in the middle of games, as well as an option to start games if it was needed. He happened to join one of the best clubs in baseball during one of their more harrowing stretches. The Giants had just lost two out of three to the Atlanta Braves before travelling to Milwaukee in which they dropped the series opener against the NL Central leading Brewers.
A day after Quintana’s pick-up, Johnny Cueto struggled against the Brewers in game two, allowing 6 runs in 3.2 innings, and Quintana was called in to keep Milwaukee off the board as the offense would try to chip away at the deficit.
They didn’t. The loss and a Dodgers win brought Los Angeles within half a game of the National League West. But Quintana did his job! He went 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball and notched 6 strikeouts, while allowing one hit, one walk and throwing one inconsequential wild pitch. This performance earned him playing consideration the following weekend when the Giants and Dodgers met for their final showdown series. The Giants won the first game. Winning the second game would clinch the season series against their rivals.
Enter Quintana. His second appearance as a Giant. Sixth inning, one out, Justin Turner on second, San Francisco is losing 3-1. Facing Corey Seager, Quintana throws a wild pitch (his second in two appearances as a Giant) and Turner advances to third. *Note: it looks to be a cross-up with Buster Posey as opposed to a “true” wild pitch.*
With less than two outs, Turner can now score on a fly out, a ground ball, a passed ball, wild pitch, a balk…
José Quintana balks. Justin Turner scores.
Normally, balks are called on elbow flinches, minute muscle spasms, errant eye-brow wiggles—but this is actually one of the more cut and dry balk calls. Quintana did not establish that he would be working from the wind-up with the runner on third, thus when took a step back instead of towards home plate the balk was called. Here’s a helpful video explaining the call.
New rule, old dog. There’s a saying about this.
It wasn’t the reason the Giants lost that game, but it didn’t help. Being down 3-1 in the later innings to the Dodgers is not a great feeling, but it doesn’t feel insurmountable. But going down 4-1, especially after a wild-pitch, balk combo does quite the number of your self-esteem.
Next day. The Sunday tie-breaker showdown (I just keep coming back to this game) was a one-sided tilt: Cy Young - candidate Walker Buehler against the Giants bullpen for the second day in a row. But the game came out wonky, bats got to Buehler early, and from the third inning on, even with a 5-run gap, Kapler was managing the San Francisco bullpen like the lead was one-foot away from falling off the side of a cliff.
It kind of was. It almost did. We have Jose Quintana and his lop-sided two inning performance to thank for that.
Quintana replaced Jay Jackson with two outs and a runner on first in the third. He walked Corey Seager (better than a wild pitch?) Way better–considering it was arguably a perfect pitch and, rather poetically, foreshadowed an equally close called ball four two innings later that created the ice king legend of Camilo Doval.
The next pitch, Will Smith flies out. Quintana went 1-2-3 in the fourth, bagging two strikeouts and weak contact against Bellinger. He went out for the fifth and looked just as sharp. Out one was a grounder off the bat of Trea Turner. Out two: Muncy waving through a 3-2 four-seamer.
Fans were feeling good. Quintana was getting weak contact, missing bats. Innings were coming and going—then the wheels came off. Mookie Betts singled. Justin Turner walked on a full count changeup in the dirt. Corey Seager walked on an impressive full-count take. The Dodgers were the Dodgers again: threatening, always threatening.
Quintana came off the mound shaking his head–the bases suddenly loaded, the top of the 5th inning flipped on its head.
But most great moments are preceded by a meltdown. Conditions must be right for a hero to be born. If not for José Quintana’s derailment on September 5th, would we have witnessed the “birth of cool” ? A young Camilo Doval taking the ball with two outs…the bases loaded…
He would make two more appearances later in the month against the San Diego Padres to ill-effect, giving up four runs in 3.2 total innings. In a week, from August 31st to September 5th, José Quintana came and went as a Giant—but he was adjacent to one of the defining moments of the 2021 season.