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Cubs 2, Giants 0: Pitching, and just enough timely hitting

The Cubs got their second straight outstanding start. This is a good sign for the future.

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

SAN FRANCISCOThe Cubs defeated the Giants 2-0 Tuesday night, and a Cubs win is always good news, but the even better news was the outstanding start from Jose Quintana.

Q was dominant over six innings and looked like the pitcher the Cubs thought they were getting in the trade from the White Sox that was completed almost exactly one year ago (July 13, 2017). In fact, check this out (and I wouldn’t have guessed this):

Keep that up and the Cubs have one fewer thing to worry about in the second half.

This game started out much like Monday’s, with offense hard to come by and pitchers looking dominant. The Cubs managed just four hits off Derek Holland over the first six innings, and just one runner (Javier Baez, who doubled with two out in the fourth, and that barely missed being a home run by a couple of feet) getting past first base.

But Q was just as good, getting some defensive help from Victor Caratini on this deflection [VIDEO] that was snagged by Baez for an out at first.

A double play helped get Quintana out of a two-on, nobody-out situation in the fourth, and then Q started his own inning-ending double play [VIDEO] to end the sixth.

The game thus went to the seventh scoreless. Addison Russell doubled deep to right-center with one out. Kyle Schwarber was sent up to bat for David Bote, and while Kyle was at the plate, Holland uncorked a wild pitch [VIDEO]. The ball didn’t get too far away from Giants catcher Nick Hundley, and Hundley tried to throw Russell out at third, but that ball got away from Pablo Sandoval and Russell scored to make it 1-0.

At that point I thought, “You know, one run might win this game.” But the Cubs weren’t done.

Schwarber completed his walk, but wound up thrown out trying to steal second by Hundley while Ian Happ was at the plate. Happ also walked, and that brought up Victor Caratini.

Caratini sent a double to right-center [VIDEO] and Happ scored to make it 2-0.

That left it up to the bullpen. Carl Edwards Jr., in just his third appearance since returning from the disabled list and first throwing a full inning, struck out Hundley, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence, needing just 12 pitches to do it. That’s yet another encouraging sign. Sure, the Iowa Shuttle guys have done a good job in relief, but it’s nice to see CJ back in a prime setup role. Fun fact about CJ’s inning:

The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the eighth, and Joe Maddon called on Justin Wilson. This is nervous time, because Wilson’s been sometimes good, sometimes bad, but at least generally at times has resembled the guy the Cubs thought they were trading for last summer.

This time, we got Good Wilson, as he set the Giants down 1-2-3. That’s yet another good sign if Joe can count on Wilson in high-leverage situations.

Again, the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, and Brandon Morrow... wait, no, that’s not Morrow, it’s Steve Cishek. What’s wrong with Morrow?

So, nothing wrong with Morrow, just a different choice to close out this one, and Steve Cishek has over 100 major-league saves. He posted another one, his third of the year, needing only 14 pitches for a 1-2-3 inning, and the Cubs had a well-played shutout win. For the Cubs it was their 11th shutout of the season, which leads the major leagues. They had been tied on top in this category with... the Giants, which possibly explains the lack of scoring in this series.

But for me, the biggest takeaway was Quintana’s excellent start. That’s two really good ones in a row from pitchers who had been struggling. If Q and Kyle Hendricks are back in form, that solves quite a few of the Cubs’ recent problems.

The win allowed the Cubs to keep pace with the Brewers, who also won Tuesday night. Thus the Cubs remain 1½ games out of first place in the N.L. Central, tied with Milwaukee at 37 losses. The Cubs and Brewers continue to have the two top records in the National League.

And here’s more good news:

Bryant had two at-bats in Tennessee’s afternoon game at home Tuesday, then took a flight to San Francisco. KB was 2-for-6 with a home run in his two rehab games, and getting his bat back in the lineup is a big boost — presuming he’s now healthy and ready to go. I’d assume Bote returns to Iowa when KB is activated, but we’ll find out for sure later this morning.

Once again a sizable minority of the 39,113 at AT&T Park was Cubs fans; you probably heard a couple of “Let’s go Cubbies” chants come across loud and clear. I’d expect another good showing of blue in the stands Wednesday afternoon as the Cubs go for the series win. Mike Montgomery will start for the Cubs and Johnny Cueto gets the call for the Giants. Game time is 2:45 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via NBC Sports Chicago. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.