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Quintana’s dazzling shutout highlights Cubs victory over Brewers

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Raymond Kim, Sports Contributor

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SEPTEMBER 24 — There’s still a week left before the calendar turns to October. Yet the energy at Miller Park was as electric as any postseason game should be.

Quintana’s gem:

In the midst of it all, Jose Quintana was the star of the show. He dominated the Brewers en route to a complete game shutout, giving up merely three hits scattered across the entire game. “Q” benched ten Milwaukee victims via the strikeout, the eighth of which was his 200th K of the season (the first 200 strikeout campaign in Quintana’s 5-year career). The outing lowered his season ERA to 4.06, although one must note that his ERA on the north side of Chicago is 3.50, a single point below his career average.

Quintana’s shutout came at a perfect time as well: the bullpen had been taxed after three consecutive extra-inning games, and Maddon most likely had a long leash on his starter in order to minimize use of his relievers. In fact, Quintana had already exceeded the 100-pitch plateau after the eighth inning, yet manager Joe Maddon decided to stick with the trusty starter for the final inning.

“I just tried to save my bullpen [because of] the last three days. … When I got to the bottom of the eighth, Joe [Maddon] gave me the confidence to go back out there,” Quintana said.

And confidently did he pitch the ninth. Even as his fastball velocity ticked down to 91 mph, he still relied on his heater upstairs and a sharp curveball to retire the side in order. His pitch count finally settled at 116 as Travis Shaw popped out in foul ground to end the game.

Only two baserunners reached second base against him, both of them on steals, and Milwaukee never managed more than one baserunner in a single inning. He was helped by a very solid defense, as Jon Jay robbed Jesus Aguilar of extra bases in the fourth with a leaping catch to his right to pluck a liner out of the air, a Statcast-certified 4 star catch.

For a pitcher who had been somewhat struggling after a blockbuster trade (in which the Cubs ceded their top ranked prospect in Eloy Jimenez), the shutout against one of the most dangerous offenses was an eye-opening performance with one clear message: Quintana is back, ladies and gentlemen. And he’s primed for October baseball.

 

An awakened offense:

Offensively, the game saw the first multi-run win as the Cubs triumphed by a score of 5-0. Chase Anderson, who has been surprisingly dominant in his 2017 campaign, surrendered three runs after a Kris Bryant double in the 4th scored one run, followed by a Ben Zobrist two-run homer in the seventh. Anthony Rizzo scorched a two-run double in the eighth off of reliever Carlos Torres to finalize the scoring.

The first five batters of the Cubs lineup combined for nine hits and all five RBIs, with Jay, Bryant, Contreras, and Zobrist notching two hits each. The team left only four men stranded on the bases while hitting .400 out of five chances with RISP.

What’s next?

With the win, the Lovable Winners reduce their magic number to two, both over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brewers. They take on the former in another four-game stretch away from Wrigley, and seek the potential to pop champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse in St. Louis later this week. The earliest that the celebration can occur is on Tuesday, with the Brewers having a day off on Monday.

The clock is ticking. The monster we call October is looming, and the North Siders are ready to enter the arena.

 

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Quintana’s dazzling shutout highlights Cubs victory over Brewers