The Cubs were looking for revenge after wasting Kyle Hendricks’ gem, the best starting pitching performance we’ve seen from a North Sider this year on Monday night. Seeing The Professor back in peak form was certainly a sight for sore eyes, but it wasn’t enough to ease the pain of dropping a strange 11-inning game, which put the team at the .500 mark in extras in 2018. With the Milwaukee Brewers handling business in Miami, the Cubs were two games off the division lead before this one really got going.
Anthony Rizzo got the night off after an uncharacteristic two-error game Monday night made him an undue lightning rod for criticism from Cubs fans, even as the team was coming off a 7-1 home stand. The Tuesday night rest gives him two of three days off before the final series against the San Diego Padres (starts Friday) heading into All-Star break. Victor Caratini started at first in his place. Jason Heyward was the Cubs’ lone left-handed hitter in the starting lineup, outside of switch hitters Ian Happ and Caratini, but those two didn’t spend too much time on the left side of the plate, and for good reason.
San Francisco made a late starting pitching change, swapping long time Texas Ranger and former White Sox lefty Derek Holland in for Johnny Cueto. Holland has been markedly better against left-handed batters this year, as such hitters have an OPS of .489 heading into tonight compared to a robust .848 OPS for their right-handed counterparts. Holland went six innings in a 6-2 loss to the Cubs on May 25 this year, giving up three runs, two of which were earned, five hits, and two walks while striking out six.
Jose Quintana took the mound for the Cubs with a relatively favorable matchup as the Giants are hitting just .237 with a .685 OPS against lefties this season, and he did his best to match Hendricks’ stellar performance from Monday night. Though he came up short in achieving such a tall task, his six shutout innings with just three hits and two walks allowed was a tremendous start, especially for a pitcher searching for a return to his former self. Quintana’s strong start only added further credence to Theo Epstein’s comments earlier this week that there is no pitcher to be found on the market better than a “locked in” Hendricks or Quintana as the two teamed up to pitch 14.1 innings without giving up an earned run in the last two games.
Quintana is at his best when he is getting ahead of batters and is able to dictate at-bats with his desired pitch sequence. He was able to do so early and often tonight as he recorded a first pitch strike (or drew contact for an out) against the first ten batters he faced, but his first pitch strike rate would regress as the game continued.
The streak ended with All-Star hopeful Brandon Belt leading off the bottom of the fourth, and he went on to single in the at-bat. Quintana then fell behind Andrew McCutchen before walking the former MVP. Nick Hundley’s at-bat also started with a ball, but Quintana was able to coax a double play ball out of the Giants’ catcher. He completed the escape job by getting Brandon Crawford to ground out.
As Quintana began the ever important third time through the order (Quintana’s OPS against the third time facing a batter in a game is a lofty 1.085 this season prior to tonight’s action), a first pitch ball to Gorkys Hernandez led to a lead-off walk in the bottom of the sixth. Belt then struck out on a full count before Quintana and Baez teamed up for a pretty double play to end the inning.
Addison Russell finally chased Holland with a one out double to right-center in the top of the seventh. Holland received a deserved hand from Giants fans as his night ended after giving up five hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings of sharp work. Kyle Schwarber came in to hit against right-handed reliever Sam Dyson for David Bote, who continued his nice work in his time with the big league club this year with a two single effort in his two at-bats tonight.
The Cubs took the lead in an ever-so-fitting way for this series as a passed ball by Hundley ultimately allowed Russell to score after Hundley’s throw sailed wide of third as Russell advanced on the passed ball; Holland was ultimately charged with an earned run. Schwarber then walked but was caught stealing on a perfect throw from Hundley. Ian Happ, hitting from the left side, then drew a walk, and he came around to score on Caratini’s two-out double off the tall brick wall in right field.
That concluded the scoring action for the night as the Cubs bullpen shut the door on the Giants with three consecutive 1-2-3 innings, highlighted by Carl Edwards Jr. efficiently striking out the side in the seventh. Steve Cishek was able to redeem himself after taking the loss last night by recording the save in place of Brandon Morrow, whose absence in such a situation was due to his body of work over the weekend. Nevertheless, the combined three-hit shutout was a dandy for the staff as a whole.
Up Next For The Cubs
Up next for the Cubs is a 2:45 p.m. start in San Francisco against Johnny Cueto, who comes in with a 1.95 ERA in just six starts in 2018. Mike Montgomery will take the ball for the Cubs.
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