Jose Quintana was an outstanding pitcher Saturday night. He retired 10 of the first 13 hitters he faced, six by strikeout.
Jose Quintana was a struggling pitcher Saturday night, getting touched up for walks and extra-base hits, and failed to finish the fifth inning.
Now, ordinarily you’d think I was talking about two different Saturday nights, but Q was both of those pitchers in a frustrating 5-4 loss to the Giants.
At one point in the early innings, Quintana struck out five consecutive Giants, three of those on called strikes, and looked like he was cruising, with the possibility of throwing a complete game, something the Cubs don’t have any of this year.
Meanwhile, the team was fashioning a 2-0 lead, though again frustratingly, it could have been more. They loaded the bases on two walks and a single in the second inning with nobody out. Javier Baez hit a comebacker for a force at the plate, but Jason Heyward worked a walk for a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, Quintana was the next hitter, and Q just isn’t a hitter. Coming into this game he was 2-for-64 (.031) with 41 strikeouts.
If only he had struck out in that at-bat. Unfortunately, he hit the ball sharply... right at Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson, and the Giants turned a double play. In 82 career plate appearances, that’s the only DP Quintana has ever hit into.
And you wonder why I’m in favor of the DH in the National League.
The Cubs’ second run came on this 437-foot blast [VIDEO] by Kyle Schwarber in the third:
Q’s struggles began in the fourth, when he walked Mac Williamson with one out. Brandon Crawford smacked a home run to the opposite field and the game was tied.
Javy’s 12th of the year made it 3-2 Cubs.
That came after the Cubs lost a replay challenge by Bruce Bochy. Willson Contreras appeared to beat out an infield grounder and was called safe on the field. It was overturned on review [VIDEO].
That was awfully, awfully close, but you can see on the video that the ball hits the back of Brandon Belt’s glove just a fraction before Contreras’ foot touches first base.
If not for that, Javy’s homer is a two-run shot and maybe the Cubs get Chris Stratton out of the game.
Then Quintana fell apart in the fifth, with back-to-back doubles to tie the game, and Joe Maddon had seen enough at that point. Quintana had thrown 83 pitches and recorded just 13 outs, with the last of those outs being a nice running catch on a deep fly ball leading off the fifth. Steve Cishek relieved Q, and recorded the second out of the inning, but allowed an RBI single to Belt to make it 4-3 Giants.
And that’s where the Cubs stopped hitting; Giants pitchers recorded nine straight outs before a two-out double by Albert Almora Jr. in the seventh. The Giants had extended their lead to 5-3 in the top of that inning when two singles and an infield out put runners on first and third off Cishek. Justin Wilson entered the game and got Belt to fly to Schwarber, who made a tremendous throw that was just late, and the run scored. Credit where it’s due: Wilson came into a fairly high-leverage situation and did a decent job. He allowed a leadoff double to Crawford in the eighth, but picked him off and then struck out the next two hitters. Baby steps.
The Cubs closed to within a run in the eighth. Schwarber doubled and scored one out later on a single by Anthony Rizzo, but Contreras ended the inning with another double-play ball, and Hunter Strickland retired the Cubs 1-2-3 in the ninth to end it.
Don’t know what’s wrong with Q, but the inconsistency is maddening, especially because consistency was the hallmark of his career with the White Sox, and that consistency was one of the biggest reasons this front office traded for him in the first place. Hopefully he figures things out, and soon.
That’s all I’ve got. This game was winnable. The Giants got key hits when they needed them and the Cubs didn’t.
Oh, one more non-game note. I saw someone walking around the bleachers Saturday night wearing a gray Cubs road jersey with “HARPER 34” on the back. That would seem to be a waste of money, to me. (Even if Bryce Harper comes to the Cubs, which he probably isn’t, No. 34 is taken, at least through 2020.)
The Cubs can still win this series Sunday night. Tyler Chatwood, taking Yu Darvish’s start after the latter hit the DL again, will start against San Francisco lefthander Ty Blach. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV Sunday night is the national game on ESPN.