Jose Quintana has not had a great season. Certainly, everyone was hoping for more than a 13-9 season with a 3.97 ERA. However, it is an interesting two sides of a coin. The Atlanta Braves have scored 13 runs on him in seven innings of work. If you remove those two games from his season, his ERA drops to 3.35. The Braves have put over half a run on his ERA this season. But if we flip the coin, Jose is now 4-1 in six starts against the Brewers with a 2.17 ERA (nine runs in 37⅓ innings of work). If we leave the Braves in the season and remove the Brewers, He has a 4.66 ERA. Jose has dropped his ERA more than half a run solely against the Brewers.
Jose has been so dominant against the Brewers that Joe Maddon will have an interesting decision to make if things continue to line up as they are right now and have been for a while. The Brewers are lined up to be the top wild card and the National League Central champion is almost certainly going to finish with the best record in the NL. So if the Brewers win the wildcard game (or if the two teams flip spots in the standings) and the two teams face each other in the NL Division Series, would you throw Quintana in game one? It would have to be extremely tempting to line him up for two starts against the Brewers. Of course there is also a temptation to start Jon Lester who has made 21 postseason starts in his career with a record of 9-7 and a 2.55 ERA and a 1.80 ERA in NLDS games. And it will also be tempting to start Cole Hamels who has been flat-out dominating since coming to the Cubs and who has also been to two World Series and been a World Series MVP.
That’s a good problem to have. These last two games have given a full taste of playoff baseball. Very little offense in either game and just a total of six hits between the two teams last night. The Milwaukee Brewers are an interesting creation. They are fantastic at positioning their players defensively and that appears to cover for a lot of inefficiency created when they play people out of their usual defensive position. However, when the game is on the line and there are a lot of close plays, they appear to have more than a usual share of miscues. Certainly they are building something interesting, but I just don’t know if they have the ability to win three post season series plus a wildcard.
Of course, the Eugene Emeralds just won a league championship as the team that finished the regular season with the worst record. Those guys are a long way from the majors, but it is another reminder that any team in a given league can get hot over a short period of time and when that happens, there is always the chance of anything happening. That’s why the single best strategy to win championships is to just get yourself into the playoffs. Of course whatever team is that year’s juggernaut will always have the best chance of winning, particularly now when home field advantage is actually based upon record. However, despite the last two seasons being won by the team with the best record in its own league, don’t assume that will remain the case forever. As recently as 2014, the World Series Champion wasn’t even a division winner. In 2011, there was also a wildcard champion and 2012, the champion finished with the third best record in its own league and in 2010, the team finished with the second best record. So two wildcard winners this decade alone and two other times a division winner without the best record in its league won the championship. Of course the Cubs are going to be hoping the team with the best record in its league wins the championship again. The National League that is.
Game 144, September 11 - Cubs shutout Brewers for sixth time 3-0 (84-60)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.295). Jose was fantastic last night. If Daniel Murphy weren’t playing second base, he finishes seven shutout innings. As it is, he throws 6⅔ innings and allowed only three hits and two walks. He struck out seven.
- Hero - Justin Wilson (.119). Justin faced just one batter. In fact, he made only three pitches. Those pitches came with the bases loaded and the Cubs leading 2-0 and they lead to an inning ending strike out.
- Sidekick - Victor Caratini (.099). Vic had two hits in three at bats. Both times he drove in runs. Vic’s bat has slowly, finally come to life at the big league level. It’s a very small sample, but starting August 23, Vic has a .323/.344/.548 line (wRC+ 138) with two home runs, five runs scored and 10 driven in. I might be a fool, but if I were running another team and didn’t have a regular catcher, I’d be taking a long hard look at trying to pry Caratini loose from the Cubs.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Daniel Murphy (-.055). I always wish I could just close up shop and not give out the Goats after an awesome game like this. Alas, integrity says we press on. So Daniel and his hitless in four at bats line lands in the bottom spot. Daniel has gone into a bit of a slump (along with most of the rest of the team).
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.044). I really, really like Ian Happ. Try to always remember that guys turn around down seasons. Also that Ian is still very young and got to the majors very quickly. But any way you slice it, Ian had a brutal night at the plate with three strike outs in three at bats.
- Kid - Kris Bryant (-.040). Russ always liked to talk about sending a fruit basket to the guy who helped you land in a certain spot. So I think Kris ought to get to throw some rotten fruit at Lorenzo Cain. Kris should have had an extra base hit last night, but Cain made one of the better running catches I’ve ever seen to rob him.
WPA Play of the Game: Justin Wilson was summoned with two outs in the seventh inning and the bases loaded. He struck out Manny Pina on three pitches to escape the jam. (.119)
*Brewers Play of the Game: In the fourth inning, Lorenzo Cain lead off with a single and that brought Christian Yelich to the plate. He drew a walk giving the Brewers one of only two real scoring chances on the evening. (.069)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 18.5
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo 16
- 4th - Cole Hamels 15.5
- 5th - Ben Zobrist 14.5
No change at the top, but Jose Quintana moves up to seventh and is now eyeing a potential top five finish.
Up Next: Who’s up for one more? The Cubs will look to take two out of three in the series and 12 of 19 in the season series. I saw this pointed out yesterday, if the Cubs win tonight, they will be 85-60 and have a three game lead in the division. Back at the start of this scheduled 23 games in 23 days stretch, the Cubs were 71-52 and up 3½ games. So if the Cubs can win this one, they’ll have gone 14-8 in the 22 games played and will have only lost a half game on the lead. The Brewers would have very, very long odds to win the division if they lose tonight’s game.
The Cubs turn to a guy with multiple game seven playoff starts in his career. I suspect the moment won’t be too large for Kyle. He is only 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA on the season, but he’s gotten better as the season moved along and is 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA over his last seven starts. Last time out he got a no decision after a little bit of a defensive let down behind him. He threw five innings and allowed six hits and no walks. But he allowed four runs only one of which was earned. He’s seen the Brewers three times this year and is 2-0 against them with both wins coming at Wrigley Field. He’s allowed eight runs in 18 innings of work. Over five starts against them dating back to last September, he is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
The Brewers will have Chase Anderson on the mound. Chase is 9-7 with a 3.95 ERA. Over his last seven games, he is 2-0 with a 4.79 ERA. Last time out, he got a no-decision against the Giants. He threw five innings and allowed five hits and a walk. He allowed two runs and struck out five. He’s started three games against the Cubs and lost two of them including his only start in Chicago. He has allowed only three runs in 20 innings of work against the Cubs this year. Dating back to to two starts he made against the Cubs in September last year, he’s made five starts against the Cubs and is 2-3 with a 1.72 ERA. The Cubs have had their struggles against Chase and so this will be another tough game. The entire back of the Brewers bullpen got last night off and so you know it will be all hands on deck tonight. Let’s hope the Cubs bats finally break through.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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