What You Need to Know: It was a slow-burning offensive day for the Cubs, but the team eventually heated up enough to put the game safely out of reach by the time José Quintana exited the game in the sixth. Three homers headlined, as Daniel Murphy, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Báez all left the yard. A few more timely hits put the Reds away despite a bumpy eighth inning, securing a series win and the Cubs’ fourth straight victory.
Next Level: Quintana muscled through five innings and faced one hitter in the sixth before Joe Maddon lifted the lefty in favor of Jesse Chavez. It was a characteristically frustrating outing from Q, who struck out only two hitters and walked three, most significantly escaping trouble in the fourth after allowing two runs.
Early, Quintana looked like he would have one of his best outings this season. Runners reached scoring position in each of the first two innings, but Quintana was efficient and didn’t allow Reds hitters to square up any of his pitches. A quick one-two-three third solidified that feeling, but the fourth is where things became rocky: two singles sandwiched a walk to Phillip Ervin, loading the bases. Quintana struggled to throw first-pitch strikes, falling behind immediately to Eugenio Suárez and then Ervin, a trend that has plagued him throughout this season in which he has searched for his formerly impeccable command. A sac fly scored a run, and Quintana won a hard-fought strikeout to inch the inning closer to its end.
Unfortunately, the end wasn’t quite that near, as Quintana faced his opposing pitcher, Luis Castillo. After putting Castillo down 0-2, Quintana missed on three straight pitches and brought the count to full. Knowing that a walk to the pitcher would extend the inning for the top of the Reds order, Quintana came back in the zone on the next two pitches; Castillo fouled the first, but was able to poke the second into center field for an RBI single.
Normally I wouldn’t bother to take you through an entire half-inning like this, but this sort of inning has been quite common for Quintana. Maddon had started warming Jorge de la Rosa as Quintana dug himself deeper, even though Quintana’s pitch count was low. It was indicative of the lack of trust Maddon has in his left-hander, and when Quintana walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, Maddon wasted no time delving into the bullpen. Clearly, the Cubs skipper is managing Quintana with a playoff mindset, and hopefully Q can build a few good outings in a row before October.
One last thing: Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez continue to rake, and with Kris Bryant poised to begin a quick rehab assignment in Iowa before the Triple-A season ends, this offense could look very scary, very quickly. But, of course, we’ve said as much before.
Top Play (WPA): Murphy’s second-inning homer gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead (+.167).
Bottom Play (WPA): Quintana’s maddening 3-2 single surrendered to Castillo (.097).
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports