In a tight, playoff-like atmosphere on a beautiful evening, the Cubs defeated the Brewers 3-0. Jose Quintana willed the Cubs to victory, limiting the Brewers scoreless while the offense proved capable in a huge win.
There’s no denying tonight was, to-date, the biggest game of the season. With roughly two and a half weeks to go, and entering the evening with the division lead at a mere one game, the Cubs faced their biggest test of the season.
Jose Quintana owned the moment.
Pitching against the Brewers for the sixth time this season, Quintana dominated the Brewers when the Cubs needed it most. Working ahead in the count early, mixing in his curveball, and elevating the fastball often with two strikes, there was a clear game plan against this Brewers offense — and Quintana executed.
A 13-pitch first inning set the tone for the evening. ‘Q’ was locating his fastball low and away to lefties and righties alike, at times showing a little extra mustard as he reached upwards of 94 MPH. His appearance on the mound was at once calm and intense, with Victor Caratini calling a brilliant game behind the dish.
The Cubs took the lead early, pushing two runs across in the bottom half of the second. Ben Zobrist led off with a tough at-bat, reaching on an error to second basemen Jonathan Schoop. Javier Baez followed by drawing a walk — after seeing six straight sliders from Chacin before laying off a 3-2 fastball out of the zone. The at-bat itself was a tale of two Javy’s, over-swinging on strike one and chasing strike two before somehow working the free pass. Javy being Javy, he later induced an errant throw from Jhoulys Chacin on a pick-off attempt at second base, scoring Zobrist before a Caratini single off the glove of Schoop drove in Baez. Suddenly it was 2-0 Cubs, and the game felt well in hand.
Not a team to go quietly, the Brewers created drama in the top of the fourth. Lorenzo Cain provided Milwaukee with their first hit of the night to lead off the inning before Christian Yelich drew a walk on just five pitches. Quintana battled, however, escaping the inning unscathed. The Brewers didn’t pose another threat until the seventh, loading the bases with two outs after Hernan Perez legged out a two-out chopper to Daniel Murphy. This was a play that Baez would’ve made, but it’s the sacrifice the Cubs made in trading for that veteran bat.
That two out single ended Quintana’s night, as he pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up zero runs while striking out seven against two walks. It was a huge night for Jose, and for the second time in a week he stepped up against the Brewers and won a huge game when the Cubs needed it most. This is the pitcher the Cubs gave up Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease for, and should he ride this hot streak into the playoffs, we really could win a second championship in three years.
Caratini added to the lead in the seventh, hitting a clutch two out, RBI double that scored Tommy La Stella from first. With two hits and two RBI, and executing a solid game plan behind the plate, Victor’s efforts should not be forgotten. He would easily have been the player of the game — if not for the heroics of Jose Quintana.
As for the bullpen, which has been shaky at best since the calendar turned to September, they were dominant. Justin Wilson struck out Manny Pina with the bases loaded in the seventh on three straight fastballs. Jorge De La Rosa retired the side in the eighth, and Pedro Strop followed suit with yet another save in the ninth.
This was a tense, hard fought, incredible win. It was exactly what the Cubs needed, and as I wrote earlier today, it was exactly what we should expect from them when it matters most. Tomorrow night will be just as big of a game, only we’ve just a touch more breathing room.
Next Up for the Cubs
The Cubs and Brewers are scheduled for a huge rubber match tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will toe the mound for the Cubs against fellow righty Chase Anderson. A series win for either team is both crucial and at-hand, the Cubs hoping to extend their division lead to three games while the Brewers look to cut the lead back down to one game, coupled with the easiest schedule in MLB the rest of the season.
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