Regardless of when he gets the ball in NLDS, Jose Quintana is living out his dream with Cubs

Regardless of when he gets the ball in NLDS, Jose Quintana is living out his dream with Cubs

Nobody has to tell Jose Quintana to take time to stop and smell the roses.

The 28-year-old southpaw is living his best life with the Cubs right now, making the playoffs for the first time in his six-year MLB career and ready to help his teammates with what he hopes is another march toward the World Series.

Quintana couldn't contain his glee in chatting with CSN's Kelly Crull after the Cubs clinching the National League Central title Wednesday night in St. Louis.

"I enjoy this," a champagne-and-beer-soaked Quintana said. "I want three more rounds [of celebration]. I'm so happy and I'm gonna enjoy this moment. I'm living the dream; I'm so excited.'

Quintana has talked a lot over the last two months about how much he wanted to make the postseason for the first time and knows this could only be the start. He's under contract through 2020 and could spend the next three years pitching in front of all those young Cubs hitters with the championship window wide open.

But for right now, Quintana is content with where he is, finishing up his 2017 regular season Friday with 4.2 innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced before running into some trouble in the fifth as a slew of groundballs found holes and led to four Cincinnati runs.

That followed the best start of Quintana's career, when he tossed a complete game, three-hit shutout against the Brewers in Milwaukee last Sunday, all but eliminating the Cubs' rivals from division contention. 

Even though he posted the highest ERA of his career (4.15), 2017 marks the fifth straight season Quintana has made at least 32 starts. He struck out a career high 207 batters in 188.2 innings and racked up 98 Ks in just 84.1 innings since being traded to the Cubs during the All-Star Break.

The Cubs have yet to announce their rotation for the National League Division Series showdown against the Washington Nationals, but they will toss Jake Arrieta and Quintana in a simulated game Wednesday at Wrigley Field. That likely indicates that duo will throw in some order in Games 3 and 4, leaving Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester to start the first two games in D.C.

While Quintana hasn't yet pitched in October in his MLB career, he got a little taste of the big atmosphere when he went up against a stacked U.S. lineup in the World Baseball Classic in March. Pitching for Colombia, Quintana held a lineup that featured Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey and Giancarlo Stanton hitless for 5.2 innings and left with the lead before eventually getting tagged with a no decision.

"Huge. I think that game against U.S. was like a playoff game," Quintana said. "Especially when you go out in the tournament showing." 

Quintana will stay ready in the 9-10 days between starts with the sim game and making sure he gets his time in the bullpens.

Whenever the Cubs call his number, he'll be waiting.

"I'm excited. I can't wait," Quintana said. "I'm gonna do my job. It's the first time I've gotten this opportunity, so it's really special."

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants