Chicago Cubs hope for dominant start from left-hander Jose Quintana


Tied 1-1 in the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs need playoff newcomer Jose Quintana to match one of the best of the game in the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer.

On Saturday, the Chicago Cubs were mere outs from taking a decisive 2-0 series lead back to Wrigley Field in the NLDS matchup with the Washington Nationals. But home runs from Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth erased those hopes, evening the series up at a game apiece.

After an off-day, the two teams meet for a Game 3 matinee at the Friendly Confines Monday afternoon in another marquee pitching matchup. National League Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer takes the ball for the Nationals opposite Jose Quintana for the Cubs.

Scherzer has been battling a hamstring injury – similar to the ailment that has sidelined Jake Arrieta for weeks. Dusty Baker has voiced concerns over his stamina heading into his first postseason start, but, knowing Scherzer, he’ll be going 100 percent.

"“I found that part of my hamstring was weak,” Scherzer told the Washington Post. “And even though the whole muscle itself is strong, there is a rotational aspect to this that we were able to identify the weakness.”"

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The right-hander has not pitched since Sept. 30 when he tweaked his hamstring against the Pirates. Strangely enough, Arrieta injured himself also against Pittsburgh earlier in the month. As a whole, though, Scherzer put up another stellar year, posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the third-straight campaign.

The question mark heading into Game 3 isn’t Max Scherzer. It’s the man making his postseason debut in Jose Quintana.

A newcomer to October baseball

Chicago acquired the southpaw ahead of the deadline with this very scenario in-mind. Making another playoff push. But after spending his career on the South Side,

no one knows quite what to expect.

For manager Joe Maddon (and most of Cubs Nation) – the main concern is the adrenaline. We’ve seen it time and time again already this postseason. Luis Severino was shelled in his debut. Jon Gray struggled badly in the NL Wild Card Game. In short, emotions run high this time of year.

"“My only concern with a guy like him is that he’s going to try to do too much, too soon, and you don’t want to leave it out there and all of a sudden have to come back,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday afternoon. “If he can get out there and get into that original rhythm, spotting it up, that kind of rhythm, he has a really good chance to pitch as well as you saw him.”"

After the mid-July trade, Quintana went 7-3 with a 3.25 FIP in 14 starts for the Cubs. He averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an impressive 4.67. He was very good – but come October, none of that matters.

Limited looks for the Nationals

Good news? Very few Washington Nationals hitters have ever squared off against Quintana.

Of the Washington starters, only Matt Wieters carries a batting average north of .300 against him (.667). That comes in a mere three at-bat sample size. Veteran Howie Kendrick is 5-for-10 against the lefty, but will again come off the bench in Game 3.

More importantly, a lefty should (in theory) bode better against left-handed threats in the lineup such as Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. We delved into Harper’s stark splits in a piece Sunday – and that’s worth checking out ahead of Monday’s showdown.

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There’s no sure way to predict what we’ll see from Quintana – or how Scherzer’s hamstring holds up over a lengthier outing. But one thing is for sure. Adrenaline will be pumping and, one way or another, this series is going to tilt in favor of one of these talented clubs.