Chicago Cubs go for series sweep of St. Louis behind Jose Quintana
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs, winners of five-straight games, look for a second-consecutive series sweep Sunday afternoon as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals.
The opener on Friday was an emotional affair. Saturday, meanwhile, was emotional in a different way. Shortstop Addison Russell pinch-hit late, blasting a mammoth home run in his first at-bat in more than a month, capping a 4-1 Chicago Cubs’ victory.
Chicago (82-66) got a masterful outing from Kyle Hendricks. The righty pitched into the eighth before giving way to the bullpen. The offense got another big game from Albert Almora and Russell’s homer in the eighth didn’t hurt matters.
Sunday, Joe Maddon turns to left-hander Jose Quintana. The left-hander is 6-3 with a 3.88 ERA since joining the Cubs and has been remarkably consistent – with just two poor outings to his credit with the team.
Another strong start is key – Hendricks’ effort allowed the bullpen to rest up Saturday. The only man likely not available? Closer Wade Davis, who closed out each of the first two games in the series. But, if absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Maddon turn to his perfect closer yet again.
The difference between this weekend’s series and the team’s sweep at the hands of the Brewers a week ago? The offense.
"“The guys are totally engaged right now,” Maddon told MLB.com. “I think part of it is the offense has picked up a little bit. All of a sudden, we’re having better at-bats and scoring runs and you see everybody perked up.”"
The bats face a tall task in right-hander Lance Lynn. In his first year back from Tommy John, the right-hander has been remarkably solid. A strong start Sunday may push his earned run average south of the 3.00 mark – a tell-tale sign of a good season for any starting pitcher.
Almora gets the nod, Contreras gets day off
Next: Zo heating up for a white-hot Chicago offense
Chicago opens a brief two-game set on Tuesday at Tropicana Field in Tampa.
Jon Lester (11-7, 4.30) squares off against a former AL East foe – Maddon’s former club. Former Cubs prospect Chris Archer (9-10, 4.06) takes the ball for the Rays.