Chicago Cubs: Jose Quintana battles to save bullpen in series finale win

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

With a bullpen that has worked incredibly hard lately, Chicago Cubs starter Jose Quintana put forth a big effort to help his teammates Sunday afternoon.

It was certainly not an easy battle for the Chicago Cubs in their recent series win against the St. Louis Cardinals. Winning three of five games, they came away with an edge. But in the first four games of the series, Cubs starting pitchers tossed a combined 19 innings and surrendered 13 runs – that is a 6.16 ERA. Only Mike Montgomery went past the fifth inning, and nobody made it to the seventh. Bullpen pitchers had to really work hard.

On Sunday, Jose Quintana turned in arguably the biggest start of the series. The bullpen was clearly gassed the night before in Game Two of the doubleheader, which led to the Cardinals’ late comeback win. Quintana pitched seven innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts, four walks on 121 pitches. His 121 pitches on Sunday tied his career-high.

There were several times it looked like his day was done. With over 100 pitches he gave up a two-out double to Dexter Fowler in the sixth and he could have easily been pulled. After an intentional walk, he got the out. It definitely looked like is day was done after six, but he came out and got a 1-2-3 seventh. Even without his best stuff, he battled through early jams and was able to go seven innings. A lot of credit has to be given there.

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Quintana’s effective pitching.

While he started off very inconsistent, Quintana has seemingly found some stability as of late. On the year he has a 3.87 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, this is after ending the month of April with a 5.74 ERA. While his BB/9 is still uncharacteristically high (4.2), he has a 2.96 ERA in his last 15 starts.

Is he pitched at the same level he did with the White Sox and last year with the Cubs? In some ways yes, in others no.

He entered 2018 with a career 2.4 BB/9, and his 49 walks on the season already exceed his totals of 2012 (42) and 2015 (44). His HR/9 is currently at 1.2, which is a few ticks higher than the 0.9 career numbers he entered the season with. Probably his biggest improvements are the strikeout numbers.

He averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine on the South Side. After the trade to the Cubs, that number climbed up to 9.1 per nine. So far this season, he’s averaging an even eight punchouts per nine – tied with the second-best single-season mark of his career. Even better, his hits per nine (8.2) would mark the second-lowest of his career if the season ended today.

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In the end, Jose Quintana has been finding a groove. Even if he is not putting up typical “ace” numbers, he is giving the Cubs chances to win every five days. He may arguably end up having one of the best seasons of his career if he can control his walks. Hopefully he can keep this solid streak going, it may be difficult in his next start after throwing a ton of pitches, but we will see.