Despite a 7-0 shutout loss Friday to open a three-game set against the Brewers, it wasn't for lack of effort on the mound for Cubs starter Jose Quintana.
The lefty went 6 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts on an afternoon when his numbers probably didn't look as good as his performance suggested.
"It was a battle. I executed my pitches, I just made one mistake with [Ryan] Braun," said Quintana, referencing a two-out solo homer in the fourth inning. "I was behind in the count and I missed a fastball away. I think that's the only mistake of the game. It was a tough game."
Despite the home run, Quintana fared well until running into trouble in the seventh inning, when he surrendered a single to Yasmani Grandal and then walked Jesus Aguilar on four pitches. That started what would eventually turn into a two-run inning.
"It just started with the breaking ball base hit to Grandal," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "After that, he kind of lost his zone a little bit. He walked Aguilar and walked [Orlando] Arcia and then eventually they got another run or two. It was just weird because he was going so well, Q was going so well, and after the base hit, things just changed a little bit."
Six weeks into the season, Milwaukee appears to be the only side giving Quintana much of a problem. The 30-year-old has had a resurgent campaign in which he's 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 36 2/3 innings in five starts against anyone not named the Brewers. His only two losses of the year have come at the hand of the NL Central foe, who have also posted a 10.24 ERA (much of that resulting from an eight-run clunker on April 5).
"You always want to support the pitcher," said infielder David Bote of the quiet offense. "They've kept us in a lot of ballgames the last month and you can't say enough about them. It was just a little bit off today in terms of finishing it off. It's going to happen."
It marks just the third time the Cubs have been shut out this year. On five occasions Friday the Cubs led off the inning with a man on but, were unable to convert. They were quick to credit opposing starter Gio Gonzalez's effort.
"Both starters were great. Gio was locating well," Bote said. "He was just able to mix things up and made a couple balls hit right at people. But it happens."
Gonzalez gave up just two hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out three.
"We faced a guy today who's been notoriously difficult," Maddon said. "In the last year we have not done as well against their pitching staff in general, we've got to figure them out. But it's one loss. Best out of three series. Let's go home, have a good night sleep and come back tomorrow."