What You Need to Know
Jose Quintana had the game of his career as he spun a complete-game shutout with double-digit strikeouts. The Cubs whittled down their magic number to two. With the Brewers off tomorrow, the earliest they can clinch the NL Central is Tuesday.
This wasn’t exactly a must-win game unless spiting the Brewers is a necessity for you. After winning the first two games of the series, the Cubs had already secured NL Central title barring an unprecedented losing streak. The Cubs were looking for a strong start from Jose Quintana though. They want him to be at the top of his game heading into the postseason, and Quintana responded in a big way today.
Quintana went the distance, striking out ten, and only allowing three hits and one walk. It was easily his best start as a Cub, and possibly the best start of his career. He’s only had two complete games before this, and only one of those was a shutout, which came on July 24, 2015. In that game, he gave up seven hits, so he was even better today.
One of Quintana’s most impressive sequences came against Ryan Braun who represented the go-ahead run in the sixth. Braun had taken a perfectly executed 3-2 pitch, a fastball down and away, for a single in the first. When Braun stepped into box, I had a sinking feeling that Quintana, despite his best efforts, was going to get stung again by Braun knocking one out. But Quintana made Braun look foolish, getting him to swing on a fastball well out of the zone and then striking him out with a fastball that cut into his hands.
I honestly didn’t think Quintana would get into the eighth, much less finish the game. He was already 96 pitches, and the Cubs extended their lead to 5-0 in the top of the inning. After taking three out of four against the Brewers this weekend, the Cubs have put themselves in a good position to coast into the playoffs, giving guys like Quintana some much-needed rest.
The Cubs didn’t get anything going against Chase Anderson until their second time through the order. In the fourth, they got the first three of four batters on, but only managed to get one run out of it. The Cubs succeed at getting a runner home from third with less than two outs 48 percent of the time, which is just below the league average of 51 percent, but it feels much lower than that. As good as the offense is, they seem to be inordinately inept at putting the ball in play in those situations.
With the way Jose Quintana pitched today, the Cubs didn’t need anything more than Kris Bryant’s double to score Jon Jay from first. Ben Zobrist got a mistake from Chase Anderson, who also pitched great, and drilled it for a two-run homer. Anthony Rizzo also contributed with a two-run double to put the game way out of reach.
Top WPA Play
Ben Zobrist was the GOAT with the bat, hitting a two-run homer in the seventh inning. (+.164)
Bottom WPA Play
Ben Zobrist was the goat with the bat, striking out with a runner on third and less than two outs in the fourth inning. (-.067)
Lead photo courtesy Benny Sieu—USA Today Sports