What You Need To Know: Jose Quintana was as good as can be for four innings. Then he wasn’t. The offense wasn’t good enough for seven innings. Then it was. Pretty much everything else doesn’t really matter. Rondon got a nice inning in. Duensing got an inning of work. Schwarber could have had a better day. And that’s really all the news that’s worth printing.
Next Level: Had this been a game that mattered, though in my head 92 or 93 wins sounds way better than just 90 but I’m crazy, we probably would have seen Maddon let Quintana work out of the jam he got himself in during the 5th. The only ball that was hit hard was Winker’s leadoff double. Everything else was courtesy of the BABIP Dragon. Singles through holes. Those can pile up, and they cause the pitches to pile up obviously, but normally Q would get more than 81 to extricate himself. He didn’t allow a runner for the first four, which is how quickly it can turn on you. While no one’s completely sure of Quintana given that he’s had a habit of these innings at the zoo, this is about as good as he’s looked.
Another story to come out of this one is that Rondon looked good, and got his first hit as well. There may be one slot open in the bullpen for the playoffs. Davis, Strop, Edwards, Montgomery are all mortal locks. Duensing is almost certainly one too, along with Lackey joining from the rotation. I’d imagine Justin Wilson is going too, and that leaves Grimm and Rondon jostling for an 8th spot should the Cubs want eight relievers out there, which there’s certainly room for.
Since his injury in early September Rondon has thrown 4.1 innings, given up a hit, struck out six and walked none. While it’s been a pretty dicey year for him, we’re only slightly more than a year removed from him being one of the more nails closers in baseball. Considering the lineup the Cubs are going to be tasked with in DC is going to be awfully hard to navigate three times for any starter, the more toys Immortan Joe has out there the better. So consider me on the Rondon bandwagon.
The other story is Ian Happ, who won the game with an opposite field blast off of Michael Lorenzen, which is no small task. I never know what to do with Happ. I’m not sure he can play anywhere in the field where he isn’t a danger to himself or society, and his bat is so explosive but in both directions. You fear for him facing the plus-plus pitching of the Nationals, who are going to show him nothing but fastballs above the letters and sliders diving at his ankles. But of all the Cubs players who rotate in and out (I don’t think Baez is on that list anymore) he’s got the most pop. You feel there’s at least one game-changing homer in the postseason in him.
Top WPA Play: Happ’s aforementioned homer in the 8th. (+.648)
Bottom WPA Play: Phillip Ervin (this f’n guy!) singling in Barnhart in the 5th to make it 3-2. (-.146)
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports