What You Need to Know: With the sunny Wrigley afternoon belying the downright frigid conditions, José Quintana one-upped Yu Darvish’s Friday performance and held the Brewers to no runs on just two hits and a walk. Quintana added seven strikeouts and kept the Brewers at bay just long enough, with the Cubs scratching across a lonely run in the third due to a misplay by Lorenzo Cain. The Cubs would add more later after three consecutive hits and some heads up baserunning in the bottom of the seventh, sealing a series victory with one more game to play versus Milwaukee on Sunday.
Next Level: Like yesterday, the story was the Cubs’ starter. Quintana allowed the Brewers to threaten the Cubs’ lead only once, when Cain doubled to the gap in left and promptly advanced to third on a wild pitch. Quintana only teased the Brewers with this chance: he struck out Christian Yelich after Yelich had battled Quintana to a 3-2 count; he induced a popup from Ryan Braun; and he finished the inning when Domingo Santana rolled a grounder to short.
Quintana sat 90-92 with his fastball, firmly in his usual velocity range for that pitch. While he’s posting his slowest fastball averages since 2015, Quintana had impeccable control of the pitch on the afternoon; fastball control has often been the one factor that can bite Quintana, so this is an encouraging development. Quintana might have even tossed a cutter to Yelich in the fourth, a pitch he has not shown to hitters since 2016. His changeup to righties also looked strong, rounding out an impressive outing from the Cubs lefty.
Oh, and Albert Almora and Javy Báez extended their hitting streaks to 11 games. Seems like this tandem at the top of the order is working out well.
Top Play (WPA): The Cubs’ bizarre “rally” in the third provided the only run the Cubs would really need on the afternoon (though Quintana was surely thankful for the insurance that would come later). After two quick outs from Jason Heyward and Quintana, Almora singled to left, bringing up Báez. Báez popped up high to right-center field, but, with Cain losing the ball in the sun and Santana nowhere to be found, Orlando Arcia gloved and dropped the ball. Almora was off the the 3-2 pitch, and so he scored from first, and Báez found himself on second after he busted out of the box (+.127).
It was one of two key baserunning plays on the afternoon. Tommy La Stella’s seventh-inning, run-scoring single turned into two runs due to Heyward’s aggressiveness as Arcia held the ball too long in short left field.
Bottom Play (WPA): It truly was a game of inches, as many pitchers’ duels are. The double by Cain to lead off the fourth was the Brewers’ most impactful play of the day, and the Cubs’ most negatively weighted play on the day (-.075).
Up Next: Tyler Chatwood attempts to prevent the Brewers from scraping away a victory from Wrigley Field this weekend. He’ll face Zach Davies, who should learn to spell his name right,at 1:20 CT.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports