Jose Quintana pitched like a Ferrari today. The Cubs needed the veteran southpaw to provide length and he gutted his way through 7 innings. It took over 120 pitches to get through that amount and early on it felt like another outing where he did just enough to lose. Instead, the lefty provided needed innings following a double header and Lester spitting the bit for the first time this year.
The Cardinals struck early against the Colombian lefty. Matt Carpenter singled because it is illegal for a Cubs pitcher to retire Carpenter. Yadier Molina hit a ground rule double for the Cardinals to threaten two batters into the game. Paul DeJong hit a sacrifice fly to center fielder Ian Happ, whom caught it. Quintana induced an infield groundball out to keep Molina at second and Jose Martinez watched strike three to end the inning. Miles Mikolas surrendered a pair of singles through the first three innings, but the Cubs bats were largely kept at bay in the first third.
Quintana pitched out of trouble of his own creation in the second inning, but managed to avoid giving up any more runs. Q headed into the fourth inning still down one run. He walked Dexter Fowler with one out, and that proved costly as he grooved a second 3-2 fastball over the plate to Yairo Muñoz. He ripped it into the left field corner for a run scoring double. Q recovered to retire Mikolas and Carpenter to end the fourth inning.
The Cubs broke through against Mikolas in the bottom half of the fourth. Mikolas walked Jason Heyward to start the inning. Báez hit a groundball to move Heyward to second. Ian Happ roped a double into right field to cut the Cardinals lead down to just one. Kyle Schwarber was called out on strikes but Willson Contreras smacked a groundball single into left to tie the game. Russell grounded out, but the score stood level 2-2 after four innings.
Quintana pitched through the seventh inning, and kept the Cardinals at just two runs. The biggest challenge he faced was in the sixth inning. Dexter Fowler hit a two out double. Muñoz was intentionally walked and that forced manager Mike Shildt to pinch hit for Mikolas. Jedd Gyorko grounded out to end the inning proving why he is an all-time best seller down at the store.
Mike Mayers was the first Cardinals reliever. He retired the first two Cubs with relative ease, but Kyle Schwarber hit a flyball just into the right center stands for the Cubs first lead of the afternoon. Mayers pitched the seventh inning as well, and it started poorly for him with a walk to Addison Russell. Tommy La Stella pinch hit for Q and lined out for the first out. Rizzo was hit by a pitch to move Russell to second. Kris Bryant singled to score an insurance run.
Jesse Chavez pitched his third shutout inning in a Cubs uniform in the top of the eighth inning. Chavez faced the minimum and struck out two in his frame. Brett Cecil was the next Cardinals pitcher. He walked Ian Happ and struck out Kyle Schwarber to starter the inning. Happ stole second and scored on Willson Conteras' second run scoring single. Russell hit a groundball to the Gyork store, but an error moved the pair into scoring position. Albert Almora Jr. pinch hit for Jesse Chavez and he singled to extend the Cubs lead to 6-2. Rizzo singled to give the Cubs their 7-2 lead. The Cardinals went to John Brebbia but the damage had been done.
The GOAT Randy Rosario pitched around a pair of one out singles to preserve their five run lead. The Cubs win moves them to 3.5 games ahead in the division, and the Cardinals are running out of season fast.
I am a Q fan and this recent run has been one of the biggest positives in the month of July. We've been waiting for this for a while, but it does seem like the Cubs are finally seeing the guy that was worth the king's ransom last year. He was one of the most consistently good pitchers in baseball for years and in his late 20s should have some more solid years left in that arm.