José Quintana hasn't been what the Cubs thought they were getting when trading for him. He also hasn't been as terrible as some think. There is no question that there is something about Q when he faces the Brewers. The 6.2 scoreless innings tonight brought his career ERA against the Brew Crew down to a paltry 1.62 in 67.1 innings. The only teams he has a lower ERA against are the Dodgers and Mets but he has thrown a combined 39.1 innings against the two foes.
Quintana was strong as he retired the Brewers in order the first time through the order. Jhoulys Chacín matched Q in the first inning with a quick 1-2-3, but he ran into issues in the second inning in the form of Brewers defense. Ben Zobrist hit a ball against the heavily shifted Brewers defense and Jonathan Schoop was charged a tough luck error to start the second inning. Zobrist stole second early in the count before Chacín lost Báez to a base on balls. Tommy La Stella hit a bouncing ball over the head of Chacín. La Stella might have been able to beat the play on the high chopper but he was convinced that it was catcher's interference. It turned it into an easy out that moved the pair of runners 90 feet. Chacín then spun around to try to pick Báez off of second but threw the ball into the outfield. Zobrist scored the first run of the game and Báez reached third with just one out. Victor Caratini worked an extremely tough at bat, but then hit a soft liner over the head of the drawn in Schoop for a run scoring single. Quintana sacrificed Caratini to second, but Ian Happ is again lost at the plate with a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
The Cubs bats went back into the deep freeze after the assisted two run outburst in the second inning. Chacín pitched three straight 1-2-3 innings to finish his night. He ended the evening with 5 innings of one hit ball. He was charged with just one earned run, but the lead would prove enough.
Quintana ran into some trouble in the fourth inning. Lorenzo Cain ripped a single to start the inning and then Quintana walked Christian Yelich to put two runners on with no outs. The dreaded Q inning was lurking, but Jesús Aguilar took a called 3-2 strike on the black for the first out. Aguilar vehemently disagreed as he walked back to the dugout. Ryan Braun hit fly ball hard into right but it was caught for the second out. Schoop hit a pop fly to Báez for the final out as Quintana kept the shutout.
Cubs and Brewers pitchers traded clean frames until the seventh inning. Quintana was still pitching with a pitch count in the low 80s to start the seventh. Aguilar jumped on the first pitch to serve a single into right. Braun flew out to left for the first out. Schoop grounded out, but advanced Aguilar into scoring position. Quintana walked Travis Shaw to put the tying run on base. Hernán Pérez was summoned as a pinch hitter, and Maddon trusted Q for one more batter. Pérez bounced a slow roller to second base. Daniel Murphy, whose defensive prowess can be best summed up as he is an excellent hitter, waited back and then threw to first for the called out. However, in review Pérez was correctly and quickly ruled to have beaten Murphy's soft toss to Rizzo. That would be it for Q, and Justin Wilson entered the game. Manny Piña was the pinch hitter and Joe was rewarded with dominant Wilson. The hard throwing lefty blew three straight high fastballs by Piña to leave the bags juiced.
Brandon Woodruff pitched the bottom of the seventh for the Brewers. He struck out Zobrist looking to start the inning, but Báez hit a groundball back up the middle for a clean single. He rounded the bases wide and drew a throw that he beat back to first barely. Tommy La Stella bounced into the fielder's choice for the second out. This brought Caratini back to the plate and the Victory Carrot continued to heat up with a double into the left field corner. La Stella flew around the bases to score easily for the third run. Woodruff walked David Bote, but Ian Happ took a called strike right over the heart of the plate to end the inning.
Jorge de la Rosa and Pedro Strop each retired three straight hitters to remove the drama from the final two innings. Strop received some help with a good and then great play from Addison Russell in the ninth inning. The 3-0 lead proved enough and the Cubs shutout the Brewers for the sixth time this season. The win guarantees that the Cubs will still be in first place on Thursday no matter the outcome tomorrow.
This I think conveys the swing of emotions in the past 24 hours here.