If the Cubs do wind up facing the Brewers in a division series match — something that’s entirely possible — maybe they should set up the rotation for such a series so that Jose Quintana can face Milwaukee twice.
The Cubs lefthander continued his dominance over the Brewers with 6x innings of brilliant shutout baseball, and three relievers finished a three-hit shutout as the Cubs defeated Milwaukee 3-0 to move back to two games ahead in the N.L. Central.
Q retired the first nine Brewers he faced, three by strikeout. Meanwhile, the Cubs fashioned a 2-0 lead in the second inning, and only one baseball really left the infield.
Ben Zobrist led off with a ball that Jonathan Schoop couldn’t handle. It dribbled past him for an error. Javier Baez walked and Tommy La Stella’s groundout moved the runners to second and third.
That’s when Jhoulys Chacin committed the second Brewers error of the inning [VIDEO].
Baez created just enough doubt in Chacin’s mind to force that wild pickoff throw. Zobrist scored and Baez advanced to third, where he was driven in [VIDEO] by Victor Caratini to make it 2-0.
Schoop almost caught that ball, which went for the Cubs’ first hit. For a while, it looked like that would be all they’d get, too. The next 14 Cubs went down in order, through the sixth inning.
But Quintana was nearly as good. He allowed a leadoff single and walk in the fourth, but got out of that jam nicely, and retired nine straight Brewers after the walk until Jesus Aguilar led off the seventh with a single. Two outs later Q walked Travis Shaw. It looked briefly as if he’d gotten out of the inning on an infield grounder by pinch-hitter Hernan Perez, but Perez, who was called out on the field, was safe after review.
That was it for Quintana, who departed after 108 pitches (68 strikes) to a loud ovation. Justin Wilson entered to face another pinch-hitter, Manny Pina. Wilson, who has been very good lately (despite the homer he allowed to Bryce Harper Saturday), struck out Pina on three pitches to end the inning. Wilson, I think, is going to be a very important bullpen piece for the rest of the year and in the postseason.
The Cubs got an important insurance run in the last of the seventh. Baez singled with one out and La Stella forced him. That brought up Caratini [VIDEO].
Caratini’s double, sliced just fair down the left-field line, scored TLS to make it 3-0.
Joe elected to use Jorge De La Rosa in the eighth, a curious choice considering two of the three hitters he was going to face were righthanded. But De La Rosa, who’s been really good since his acquisition last month, retired the side in order. De La Rosa, in 11 appearances as a Cub: 1.76 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, .182 opponents BA, no home runs allowed. He’s been scored on in just two of those 11 outings, and one of them was that blowout in Milwaukee last week where he gave up a couple of runs in garbage time. De La Rosa, who had three scoreless appearances for the Diamondbacks in last year’s postseason, has to be a candidate for the Cubs’ postseason roster.
And that left it up to Pedro Strop.
Now, those of you who weren’t at the game didn’t see this, but Pedro has at last arrived as a big-league closer. The Cubs made an intro video for him that was played on the video boards as he entered. And he had a 1-2-3 inning for his 13th save — helped out by this outstanding play by Addison Russell [VIDEO].
That was not only a great stop by Russell (who had just entered for defenss), diving on the grass, popping right up and making a strong throw. It was also a terrific stretch by Anthony Rizzo to retire Ryan Braun on a very close play, which was reviewed and confirmed by the replay crew.
That was well-played by the Cubs in every facet of the game: pitching, defense, timely hitting. Quintana has a 2.17 ERA and 0.884 WHIP in six starts vs. the Brewers this year, and has held them to a .177/.246/.323 slash line. The Cubs won five of the six games he started vs. Milwaukee this year. I’ll say it again: If the Cubs face the Brewers in the postseason, Q’s the guy I want set up to face them twice in the division series. More Q:
José Quintana last 5 starts:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 12, 2018
1.84 ERA, 29.1 IP, 21 Hits, 10 BB, 25 K, 0 HR, 1.057 WHIP
10 career starts vs Brewers
1.60 ERA, 67.1 IP, 40 Hits, 15 BB, 63 K, 5 HR, 0.817 WHIP#Cubs
More Cubs vs. Brewers this season (they’re 11-7 against them overall with one game remaining):
#Cubs shut out the #Brewers for the 6th time this season (in 18 meetings)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 12, 2018
It's the Cubs' most shutout wins against a single opponent in a season since 1928 when they shut the Reds out 7 times (in 22 meetings, and one of the shutouts was a 6-inning game)
Props also to Caratini, who at last is starting to hit like he did in Triple-A. Last six games (granted, small sample size): .400/.400/.667 (6-for-15) with a double and a home run. With Willson Contreras in what feels like a season-long slump, I wonder if Caratini might rate more playing time down the stretch.
The win reduced the Cubs’ magic number for clinching the N.L. Central to 16 over the Brewers (and 15 over the Cardinals). Take care of business tonight, and the Cubs will have done what they needed to do in this series, take two of three.
It was another beautiful September evening at the ballyard Tuesday, with temperatures in the 60s again with light winds and clear skies. More of the same is expected weather-wise Wednesday as the Cubs go for the series win. Kyle Hendricks will be on the mound for the Cubs and Chase Anderson goes for the Brewers. Game time again is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage Wednesday is via ABC7 Chicago.