Cubs

Where would Jose Quintana fit in a Cubs playoff rotation?

Where would Jose Quintana fit in a Cubs playoff rotation?

PITTSBURGH – The Jose Quintana trade became a way for the Cubs to protect themselves if – or probably when – Jake Arrieta signs a free-agent megadeal somewhere else. Shipping two top prospects to the White Sox became a play for 2018, 2019 and 2020 more than trying to save this season.

But the pressure on Quintana – who has never thrown a playoff pitch before – will only increase now that Arrieta is potentially sidelined for at least two starts with a strained hamstring in the right leg that generates so much power in his crossfire delivery.

Quintana responded during Wednesday’s 1-0 win at PNC Park, matching zeroes with Gerrit Cole for six innings on a night where the Pittsburgh Pirates ace had no-hit stuff.

Quintana’s ups and downs – combined with a full recovery for Arrieta, no Jon Lester health scares, Kyle Hendricks getting back into a groove and John Lackey looking ready for Big Boy Games – should create some interesting playoff-rotation decisions if the Cubs don’t blow their 4.5-game lead in the National League Central.  

“I would not use the phrase, ‘He has to show us anything,’” manager Joe Maddon said. “I just think it’s probably packaging his stuff, using the curveball more, the changeup a little more often, and then just locating his fastball more consistently.

“He’s in good shape right now. He’s very excited about being in this moment. There’s no question about that. But there’s nothing for him to prove to us right now. I have not looked at it that way at all. I think he’s really good.”

[MORE: Why Anthony Rizzo has so much confidence in the 2017 Cubs

Quintana became the stopper the Cubs (76-63) needed, helping snap a three-game losing streak by limiting the Pirates (67-73) to six singles and one walk while notching six strikeouts. Quintana (4.03 ERA) has put up seven quality starts – and the Cubs have won six games – in his 10 outings since the crosstown trade.   

“I’ve never been given the opportunity, and I feel really good to be here and be close to the playoffs,” Quintana said. “We don’t win (anything) yet. We’re trying to continue in this race – every single day – and win games like that. It’s high confidence now, and just keep going.”     

General manager Jed Hoyer had a great answer last week when asked whether Lester or Arrieta should start a Game 1, likely matching up against two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals: “I don’t think we deserve to be able to think about that at this point.”   

The larger point is that the Cubs will need Quintana and waves of pitching – now and in the future – to become the gold-standard franchise they aspire to be.   

“I think (the idea of) the one ace and hope you win a couple other games doesn’t really work, or it doesn’t work very often,” Hoyer said. “Having a deep pitching staff is what works.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th 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 49th homer of the season came with a runner on 1st and one out, when Oriel Hershiser served up a high fastball that Sammy belted 415 feet into the last few rows in left-center field. 

Sosa would later start the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the game-tying run on a Henry Rodriguez single through the right side of the infield. Jose Hernandez would step in the next at-bat and walk it off with a base hit that scored Mark Grace, as Sammy and the Cubs bested the Giants 6-5. 

Fun Fact: A 33-year-old Barry Bonds would hit home run No. 25, finishing the season with 37 homers. He would finish the next season with 34 dingers but would string five consecutive seasons with at least 45 home runs, of course hitting a record 73 home runs in 2001. 

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans.