Jose Quintana

Cubs waste Jose Quintana's career night in Philadelphia

Cubs waste Jose Quintana's career night in Philadelphia

On most days, Jose Quintana's performance would have been more than enough to notch his seventh straight win.

The 30-year-old southpaw set a new personal strikeout record with 14 whiffs through six innings Tuesday night in Philadelphia, but instead it went down as another chapter in the book that is the Cubs' road woes.

The bats —from Nicholas Castellanos — went quiet and the bullpen gave up a pair of runs and the end result was a 4-2 loss, running the Cubs' record away from Wrigley Field to 23-36 on the season. It also marks the first time the Cubs lost in a Quintana start in nearly two months (June 22).

With the gem, Quintana became only the second Cubs pitcher ever to whiff at least 14 guys through six innings, joining Kerry Wood (who accomplished the feat on April 27, 2001):

It's also only the second time since 1908 a Cubs southpaw has notched 14 strikeouts:

Here are all 14 of those whiffs:

Since he gave up 8 earned runs in 3 innings in his first start of the season April 5 in Milwaukee, Quintana has posted a 3.78 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 128.2 innings. In those 22 outings, he's turned in 13 quality starts and allowed more than 3 earned runs just three times.

He's been even better his last eight times out, posting a 3.40 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 7.1 K/BB (50 strikeouts vs. 7 walks) since he was battered around by the Mets on June 22 (8 runs allowed in 4.1 innings).

Quintana's 4.11 season ERA won't put him in the NL Cy Young conversation this season, but in an era where balls are flying out of the yard at a record pace, it certainly positions him ahead of the curve (MLB average ERA is 4.52 this year). 

Not bad for a fifth starter.

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Cole Hamels finishes rehab outing strong, could return to Cubs this week

Cole Hamels finishes rehab outing strong, could return to Cubs this week

MILWAUKEE — Regardless of what the Cubs do ahead of the trade deadline this week, their roster should get a big boost in the near future.

Cole Hamels threw another rehab outing with Triple-A Iowa Sunday afternoon, tossing two scoreless innings after allowing 3 runs in the first inning. He threw 59 pitches overall and could be in line to come off the injured list and start for the Cubs sometime over the next week. 

The Cubs are currently rolling with a four-man rotation thanks to a flurry of off-days injected into their recent schedule and the current plan for St. Louis this week is as follows:

Tuesday — Yu Darvish
Wednesday — Kyle Hendricks
Thursday — Jon Lester

Thanks to another day off Monday, Jose Quintana (Sunday's starter) should be able to throw Friday on full rest as the Cubs welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to Wrigley Field to kick off the first homestand of August.

That means Hamels could get the call on Saturday, the next time the Cubs need a fifth starter. Or, he could also slot into Friday's game if the Cubs wanted to hold Quintana back an extra day for whatever reason.

Hamels, 35, is coming off his second oblique injury in the last few seasons. He last pitched June 28 in Cincinnati, going only an inning before needing to come out of the game with the side issue.

Prior to the month-long stint on the shelf, Hamels was arguably the Cubs' best starter, going 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 97 strikeouts in 99.2 innings.

Jose Quintana delivers as Cubs sweep Pirates: 'He doesn't get enough credit'

Jose Quintana delivers as Cubs sweep Pirates: 'He doesn't get enough credit'

The Cubs have made a trademark out of having a strong second half, and after beating the Pirates 8-3 Sunday, they completed the sweep in their first series since the all-star break and look on their way to putting more space in the NL Central between themselves and the other four teams.

But through the first three innings, the Cubs and starter Jose Quintana looked more like they were going to let the third game of this series get away.

Quintana held the Pirates scoreless in the first two innings, but then in the third he gave up three consecutive singles, threw a wild pitch, allowed a sacrifice fly, and gave up a double, undoing the 1-0 lead the Cubs had established in the second inning on Robel Garcia's double.

But the difference in Sunday's game was how Quintana pitched after that. He tossed three more scoreless innings, completing a 90-pitch quality start and even contributed an RBI single in the fourth.

"He always goes out there and he competes. He’s so focused," Kris Bryant said of Quintana after the game. "He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does."

Leading up to Quintana's single, Garcia hit a two-out double and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle opted to walk David Bote to get Quintana to the plate for what seemed like a sure out. Instead, Quintana poked Trevor Williams' four-seam fastball to right field, allowing Garcia to score from second and trim Pittsburgh's lead to 3-2.

Quintana had already thrown a scoreless top of the fourth inning, but he gave two more after his RBI single. The hit was a timely confidence boost.

"Felt great, finally to get the base hit," Quintana said. "So excited."

This was Quintana's fifth career RBI and first since 2017, and it may have helped catapult the rest of the offense. The Cubs would score three more runs in the fifth inning to take the lead, and then added some cushion with another three in the sixth.

"Literally, when Q got that hit, Tony goes, 'homer right here,'" Jason Heyward joked after the game.

It wasn't Quintana who got the home run, but Heyward was the one to give the Cubs the lead with his own two-run homer in the fifth after Victor Caratini's sacrifice fly had scored Bryant to tie the game earlier that inning.

"We have fun with that," Heyward said of Rizzo's joking. "But we pull for them obviously because they’re out there pitching their ass off. They want to keep the game close, and sometimes they need to pick themselves up too."

Quintana's last three innings on the mound kept his team in the game. He started the fourth with a walk to Elias Diaz and then did not allow another baserunner until Corey Dickerson's one-out single in the sixth.

"I kept throwing my pitches and believing in my stuff and waiting for our offense to come back in the game, and they did really well," Quintana said. "Always in my mind was they can take more runs, so I wanted to keep it there and wait for our hitters to get back in the game. They did great work. It’s a really good feeling around us right now."

One of the keys to a strong second half for the Cubs is getting more wins like Sunday's. Bryant said after the game that it's important to get a few wins that you shouldn't, like one when the team is down 3-1 halfway through the game. And especially in the last game of a three-game set where the Cubs had already won the first two. With the series win safely secured, it would be easy to let up and drop the final game, but Quintana's timely hit and good pitching in the second half of his outing helped make the difference.

"As soon as he hits his knock, he pitched really well after that," Joe Maddon said. "He got better after the knock."

Quintana might struggle to live up to the expectations of coming from across town in a trade two years ago that cost two darling prospects, but it's worth noting that the average ERA in the National League is 4.39, and after Sunday's win, Quintana's is down to 4.21. If he's the team's back-of-the-rotation starter, that'll do just fine.

He's very capable of stringing together quality starts and pitching like the team's ace, like he has over his last three outings with three straight quality starts, but there are also stretches like his run from May 26 to June 22 where he lost six starts in a row and his ERA climbed from 3.73 to 4.50.

Either way, if Quintana makes more of his starts like Sunday's, the Cubs are in very good position to continue their yearly trend of winning in the second half of the season.

 

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