I was very happy when the Cubs landed José Quintana. He was exactly the type of pitcher that the Cubs front office should have coveted at the time and then his up and down Cubs career has removed a lot of luster off that initial feeling. He has had spectacular outings as a Cub. He has strung a few of them together, but even the most fervent supporters of Q have to admit that he has failed to pitch at the level that made him one of the most under appreciated starting pitchers in baseball. And at the risk of putting my baseball Costanza powers on Q, I'm going to proclaim him finally back. Three straight, seven inning outings is something we have yet to see and today's quality start against a very dangerous Dodgers lineup might be the most impressive despite giving up two more runs than his previous two outings combined.
Quintana worked a quick 1-2-3 inning to start the game. Kenta Maeda struggled right from the start. Ben Zobrist singled to start the game and Kris Bryant drew a walk after an extended plate appearance. Anthony Rizzo had a productive out to advance the pair into scoring position. Javier Báez walked to load the bases up with just one out, but Kyle Schwarber swung through a 3-2 changeup in the zone for a key second out. Or at least it felt that way prior to Willson Contreras clearing the bases with a double. Daniel Descalso followed with another double to extend the Cubs lead to 4-0. Q would be the final out of the first inning as the Cubs batted a round against the Japanese starter.
Corey Seager singled to start the second inning, but Q settled back in to retire the next three batters. Zobrist singled again to start the bottom half of the inning. Bryant hit a pop fly to second before Rizzo clobbered a two run shot to give the Cubs a comfortable 6-0 lead. Báez and Schwarber singled before Maeda struck out the hot hitting pair of Contreras and Descalso to stop the bleeding.
Q put the lead off runner again in the third inning. This time it was a free pass to Austin Barnes. Maeda bunted Barnes into scoring position. Kike Hernández struck out for the second out, but Justin Turner made the free base runner hurt the Cubs with a run scoring double. David Freese grounded out to end the inning. Quintana then pitched three straight clean innings to head into the seventh inning holding onto that same 6-1 lead. Unfortunately the Cubs bats also went cold against Maeda and then young lefty Julio Urías.
The Dodgers finally got their potent lineup going against Q in the seventh inning. A.J. Pollock scooped a single into left field and then a ball dropped between Schwarber and Jason Heyward off the bat of Cody Bellinger. It would have been a tough play and it was a potentially scary play as the two outfielders came close to colliding. The end result was two healthy Cubs fielders but a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Chris Taylor hit a run scoring fielder's choice making it a 6-2 score. Barnes drew a two out walk and then Q struck out pinch hitter Max Muncy with a generous 3-2 strike call to end the frame.
Caleb Ferguson pitched the bottom of the seventh and Javy got Q's run back with one swing of the bat. The one out blast to right center gave the Cubs a five run lead back. That lead looked in jeopardy as the Cubs bullpen had to get six outs to close out the game. Steve Cishek struck out Enrique Hernández for the first out but back to back singles brought the lefty Kyle Ryan into the game. Ryan was victimized by a groundball single to right off the bat of Corey Seager. The bases were loaded with just one out and Ryan had to retire Pollock and Bellinger. Ryan struck out Pollock and Bellinger grounded out to keep the Cubs up by five runs.
The unique arm angle of Kyle Ryan baffled Dodgers bats in the ninth inning. A quick 1-2-3 inning removed any drama from the game that seventh and eighth inning had provided. That was a relief to many Cubs fans. Almost as much of a relief as the fact that the Cubs are finally above .500.
While not fair to José Quintana he will always be the guy the Cubs traded Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease for. That deal has looked more like Matt Karchner for Jon Garland than Sammy Sosa for George Bell. Again not fair to Quintana who has provided a number of key games in a Cubs uniform, he has not lived up to the pitcher that was worth the package. This guy who has taken the ball though the past three times out might be able to repay that debt though.