Today was adding insult to literal injury. Yu Darvish headed to the DL and the Cubs lost a frustrating game just a few hours later.
Gorkys Hernandez is really annoying. It started with a bloop ground rule double. He hit a ball that dropped in front of Heyward and then bounced into the right foul stands. Jose Quintana got a pair of groundballs from Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria to move and then keep Hernandez at third. Quintana struck out Brandon Belt. Mac Williamson single recorded a single to start the second inning, but Quintana would strike out the next five batters he faced after that.
Chris Stratton alternated between dominance and struggles in his five innings of work. He retired the first three Cubs easily, but then struggled with his command in the second inning. Willson Contreras singled between two walks to load the bases with no outs. Javier Báez made contact in the next at bat, but hit right at pitcher Chris Stratton. He bobbled the ball which forced him to throw home in time to get the first out. Jason Heyward drew a bases loaded walk to drive in the first run of the game, but Jose Quintana bounced into the inning ending double play. Kyle Schwarber blasted a one out mistake pitch to give the Cubs a 2-0 edge in the third inning.
Quintana walked Williamson with one out in the fourth inning. His biggest mistake pitch was smacked for a two run home run by Brandon Crawford to tie the game. Quintana retired the next two batters to keep the game level into the bottom half of the inning. Báez untied the game with a two out blast in the fourth.
The wheels came off for Quintana in the fifth inning. Hernandez hit another double down the third base line with one out. It was just out of the reach of Kris Bryant, who had taken a few steps in after the fake bunt earlier in the at bat. McCutchen hit a ball into center field that Ian Happ took a Chris Coghlan-esque route to the ball. It became a game tying double for McCutchen that ended Quintana's night. Steve Cishek was the first call out of the pen as always. Longoria flew out to make the move look solid, but Brandon Belt ripped a solid liner to give the Giants their first lead of the night.
The Cubs bats went cold. Stratton pitched a 1-2-3 inning in his final inning of work. The Cubs couldn't do much against Reyes Moronta and Sam Dyson pitched scoreless innings. The Giants tacked on runs in the seventh inning. Guess who started a rally for the Giants? You are wrong unless you guessed Gorkys Hernandez. This time it was bunt single to start the inning against Every Eve Steve. A McCutchenn ground out and Longoria singled put runners on the corners with one out. Maddon went to Justin Wilson to face lefty Brandon Belt. Belt hit a drive into left field that was just deep enough to score the speedy Hernandez. Wilson got five outs without another run crossing the plate, but the Giants lead felt insurmontable with the way the Cubs had been swinging the bats.
Tony Watson pitched the bottom of the eighth inning. The move worked exactly the opposite of how Bruce Bochy expected. Kyle Schwarber doubled to start the frame. Kris Bryant struck the ball well but it hung up long enough to be caught. Anthony Rizzo singled to cut the lead to 5-4, but Willson Contreras extinguished the threat with a double play ball.
Pedro Strop pitched the ninth inning for the Cubs. There was a lot of traffic in the inning with two walks (one intentional), a single and double, but a double play and strike out kept the score at 5-4. Hunter Strickland is the Giants closer with Mark Melancon on the DL. Strickland had to face pinch hitter extraordinaire Tommy La Stella to start the ninth. Strickland fell behind 3-0 to La Stella before working the count full. La Stella flew out on the 3-2 pitch for the first out. Báez popped out on the first pitch for the second out. Jason Heyward was the final chance for the Cubs. Suprisingly Heyward grounded out to second on the 3-2 pitch to end the game.
Jose Quintana is my guy, but it was frustrating to watch this one. We saw what good Jose Quintana looks like. The first inning at bat against Evan Longoria really highlighted him locking in after a few things went against him. Hernandez led the game off with the cheapest of ground rule doubles you'll ever see, and he reached third on a ground ball out. Quintana was down 2-0 with the most dangerous Giants hitter on deck. Quintana threw a beautiful curve for a called strike. He followed up with an elevated fastball for a swinging strike two. Longoria managed to make contact on the next pitch, but the out was recorded without the runner scoring. Quintana struck out Belt to end the inning. Counting the Belt punch out, Quintana struck out five of the next six batters he faced.
The fourth inning was another fluky extra base hit from pesky Gorkys Hernandez. If Albert Almora is in centerfield on the McCutchen flyball, Quintana is probably pitching into the sixth inning at least. Instead the game was tied and the go ahead run was in scoring position. Maddon went to his middle inning safety blanket, and Cishek just couldn't get two outs without the go ahead run scoring.
The Blame Game
Jose Quintana is likely to take a beating in the comments, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Ian Happ needs to be in the lineup because his bat is useful, but with a flyball pitcher in Quintana on the mound it wasn't hard to predict some adventures in center. Unfortunately the sequencing of that adventure was the game tying slash go ahead runs.
The Cubs lineup did what it has done throughout most of the year, and that is squander chances with runners on base. The Cubs had a chance to break the game open in the second inning, and they had to settle for a single tally that the pitcher forced in with a base on balls. Half of the Cubs runs came on home runs. Too frequently were the hitters giving up at bats and quick, stress free innings for not particularly strong Giants pitchers. The scoreline will place the loss squarely on Quintana's shoulders, but there is plenty of shares to hand out tonight.
We've been through this a few times. Q was one of the most consistent and durable starters in baseball for years. That combined with his contract is why the Cubs were willing to part with top prospects to bring him to the Northside. He flashed some of that brilliance today, but he looked like the mortal Q shell we've seen far too often as well.