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."

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 37th homer of the 1998 season was a big one, an opposite field blast off the front row of fans in right field and into the basket at Wrigley Field.

The eighth-inning 3-run shot gave the Cubs some insurance in a game they ultimately won 9-5 and the Wrigley faithful responded by throwing a bunch of trash on the field.

Earlier in the contest, Sosa tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth inning. He finished with 4 RBI, giving him 93 on the season with more than 2 months left to play.

Fun fact: Vladimir Guerrero was the Expos' No. 3 hitter for this game an dhe also hit a homer (his 20th). Now, Guerrero's son is nearing his MLB debut as a top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system.

Fun fact No. 2: Mark Grudzielanek - who later played for the Cubs in 2003-04 - was Montreal's No. 5 hitter for the game at Wrigley. He was traded 10 days later from the Expos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for another fellow Cub - Ted Lilly.