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."