Prior to the 2018 season, Chicago Cubs’ left-hander Jose Quintana had earned the reputation as a pitcher who did not allow many walks. From 2013 to 2016, Quintana recorded walk rates below seven percent in each of those seasons pitching for the Chicago White Sox. Despite those outstanding walk rates while pitching on the south side, Quintana has not been able to carry that over in his time with the Cubs.
Following his trade across town in the summer of 2017, Quintana posted another solid walk rate. In 84.1 innings while wearing the Cubs’ pinstripes, the southpaw posted a 6.1 percent walk rate, a number that was down from the 9.0 percent mark he posted as a member of the White Sox.
That solid mark during the second half of 2017 has ballooned through the first two-thirds of the 2018 season. Entering play, Quintana was sporting a walk rate of 10.7 percent, three percentage points higher than his previous career-high he posted last season. Quintana’s lofty walk rate was actually higher prior to his last start, but the left-hander logged his first outing of the season without allowing a walk, an effort in which he tossed six innings of one-run ball against the San Diego Padres on August 3.
Despite his walk free outing five days ago, it was once again the free pass that got Quintana in trouble. Starting against one of the worst teams in baseball in the form of the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, the Cubs’ left-hander got off to a quick start. After setting the first three Royals’ hitters down in order with six pitches to end the first inning, Quintana started to labor. While it’s clear Quintana’s command has been off for much of this season, that was not made any better by home plate umpire Joe West’s tight strike zone.
That tight strike zone and Quintana’s spotty command lead, in part, to an 9-0 Royals’ victory on Wednesday night.
The Royals plated their first runs of the game in the second inning as the rally was started by a lead-off single off the bat of Hunter Dozier that was quickly followed by a fly out by Lucas Duda. With one out and a runner on, it seemed likely Quintana could get an inning-ending double play from a Royals’ offense that had scored only one run over the last two games. Instead, Quintana set Kansas City up for a big inning by walking the next two batters, loading the bases for the nine-hole hitter. That hitter, Drew Butera, wasted little time, whacking a double down the left field, plating two Royals’ runners.
While it’s hard to say whether or not the Royals would have scored without the two walks, those free passes only prolonged the inning, opening the door for Kansas City to finally cash in on an opportunity.
On the offensive side of things, not much went right for the Cubs on Wednesday night. Making just his fifth big league start, right-hander Heath Fillmyer held the Cubs’ bats in check for the majority of the afternoon.
The Cubs’ first real chance to score off the rookie came in the first inning when Anthony Rizzo logged his 999th career hit while at the same time celebrating his 29th birthday. That hit of the infield variety was followed by a fly out, walk and ground out that set the Cubs up with runners at second and third and two outs. Tommy La Stella, who got the rare start and even rarer start at designated hitter, harmlessly popped out to the shortstop, ending the Cubs’ threat.
With that streak over, the Cubs finally showed signs of life in the top half of the seventh inning. David Bote started the rally with the Cubs’ first hit since the Rizzo infield single in the first and was followed by La Stella who punched a ball into center field, giving Chicago two runners on with one out. Perhaps with his best pitch of the night, Fillmyer froze Willson Contreras for the second out of the inning, before getting Schwarber to pop-up to the shortstop to once again end the threat from the Cubs.
Approaching 90 pitches, Quintana was left on the mound to begin the seventh inning. Perhaps inspired by the work of their pitcher in the top half of the inning, the Royals put their first two runners on base with back-to-back singles. That, however, would not be the worst thing to happen in the frame has Adalberto Mondesi turned on a 2-0 pitch from Quintana, sending it into the left-center field seats, more than doubling the Royals’ lead to 5-0. With a four-run eighth inning off starter-turned-reliever Tyler Chatwood, the Royals firmly put the game out of reach, racking up nine runs on nine hits over the course of the evening.
A strikeout of Butera ended the night for Quintana in the seventh. The left-hander’s final line looked like this: 6.1 innings, six hits, five earned runs, two walks and four strikeouts on 98 pitches. On the other hand, the Royals’ rookie right-hander was much better as he was able to shut down the Cubs’ offense over seven strong innings. Fillmyer’s final line looked like this: seven innings, three hits, zero earned runs, two walks and three strikeouts on 98 pitches.
With the loss, the Cubs fall to 66-48 while the Royals improve to 35-79 on the season.
Next Up For The Cubs
The Cubs will begin a three-game set with the Washington Nationals on Friday, August 10 at 1:20 p.m. at Wrigley Field. Taking the ball for the Cubs will be Kyle Hendricks (8-9, 4.07 ERA). Despite earning the win in his last start, Hendricks continued the trend of Cubs’ starters not going deep into games. On August 4 against the San Diego Padres, the right-hander tossed 5.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits while striking out seven. The one positive for Hendricks was the fact that he failed to walk a batter for the second straight outing, a streak he hopes to continue on Friday.
Opposing Hendricks on the mound will be Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 3.56 ERA). Hellickson also has a walk-less streak going. Over his last two starts spanning 10.1 innings, the right-hander has struck out seven batters without allowing a walk while at the same time allowing seven runs (five earned).
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