The Rundown: Báez & Quintana Lead Cubs, Russell Nears Return, Maddon Brand Expanding, Arrieta Calls Out Phillies Teammates
It’s fun to watch the regional, national, or opposing team broadcasts of Cubs games because announcers seem so genuinely amazed by Javier Báez. The thing is, to those of us who get to see him play regularly, Báez never ceases to astound us, either.
HIT 'EM WITH THE JUKE, JAVY. pic.twitter.com/Xsc4VM65YV
— MLB (@MLB) April 24, 2019
As much fun as that kind of stuff is, I was more impressed with José Quintana last night. The lefty is really on a roll and had his third consecutive outstanding start in last night’s 7-2 win over the Dodgers. On a crisp April night that felt a lot more like October, Quintana was aces when anything less may have been insufficient. Sometimes a fistful of cards is just as strong as a fistful of money, and Q was dealing last night. When Quintana struck out Max Muncy with two on in the bottom of the 7th it had all the feels of an NLCS game.
In his last three outings, all which have gone seven innings, Quintana has 25 strikeouts and has allowed two runs. He’s walked just three opposing batters during this streak. You’ll never confuse the lefty starter with Jacob deGrom, but he’s certainly played the part of staff ace over his last 21 innings, lowering his ERA from 10.29 to 3.21. It has been his best stretch since joining the Cubs in 2017.
Last night’s win pushed the Cubs over .500 for the first time since Opening Day. Certainly Quintana is a big reason why. In the 10 games since he shut out the Pirates 2-0 on April 11, the starting rotation has posted an ERA of 1.39. Great pitching can be infectious, and winning almost always follows suit.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Dodgers weren’t happy with Ted Barrett’s strike zone last night. He squeezed the zone and was regrettably inconsistent for both teams. I was just as offended by his obnoxious strike call.
- Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler (2-0, 5.40 ERA) and Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels (3-0, 2.77) face off in tonight’s game. Over his past three starts, Hamels is 3-0 with 19 strikeouts and zero walks.
- The Cubs announced a couple of roster moves before yesterday’s game, with more coming as the week continues.
- Those changes mean tinkering with a pitching staff that has been the team’s greatest strength since Jon Lester was hurt in Chicago’s 10-0 win in the home opener.
- Speaking of the starting staff, Joe Maddon wants Yu Darvish to find his sixth gear. When asked what he needs to do to take that next step, the struggling starter’s answer was simple: “Be out there more than six innings.” I don’t think Maddon and Darvish are a good match and I wonder how that will affect the manager’s future with this organization.
- Jesse Rogers of ESPN proposed a Cubs-White Sox trade that would bring ChiSox closer Alex Colomé to the Cubs. For what he proposes giving up, I think the Cubs could do much better.
- Dillon Maples is throwing strikes with a lot more consistency at Triple-A Iowa.
- Addison Russell is joining the I-Cubs to prepare for his return from a 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. Russell is expected to play when Iowa begins a nine-game homestand Wednesday night against Nashville. Be that as it may, I think this highly-opinionated puff piece by Bob Nightengale of USA Today is more than a little over the top. Certainly Russell’s stated desire to be compared to Tiger Woods seems wretchedly self-righteous and borderline creepy. Am I alone in feeling tainted by all the ick?
How About That!
Mets starter Zack Wheeler became the first member of the 100/100 club for 2019. That means he has thrown a pitch 100 mph or better while hitting a home run with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. It was Wheeler’s first career tater.
Things aren’t always sunny in Philadelphia, especially when your staff ace calls out the team’s best position player for getting tossed for arguing balls and strikes, and follows that by saying the entire team was flat.
Umpire Angel Hernandez had a rough night behind the plate in Houston.
Indians third baseman José Ramírez has been a terrible disappointment to date.
The Cardinals said Tuesday that injured starter Carlos Martínez will make his return as a reliever. That’s less the team’s preference and more a result of it being all he can handle right now.
Jeff Samardzija has quietly opened the season with a 3.00 ERA in five starts, but the velocity he lost last season hasn’t come back and he’s still down about 2.5 miles per hour from where he was a couple of years ago. The Blue Jays managed to foul off 24 Samardzija pitches — a staggering number — and he recorded just six swinging strikes in 85 pitches.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Zack Wheeler – The Mets starter was a one-man wrecking crew, striking out 11 over seven scoreless innings and also hitting a home run with three RBI during a win over Philadelphia. At one point he struck out seven consecutive Phillies.
- Luke Voit – The Yankees first baseman was 2-for-4 with two home runs, two RBI, and three runs scored in New York’s 7-5 win over the Angels. Voit has reached base in 34 straight games and has 20 home runs in 55 games dating back to Aug. 24, which leads the American League.
- José Quintana – Big Q held the Dodgers to two runs on four hits in seven innings. The left-hander walked two and struck out seven, pushing his streak to 16 scoreless innings over two-plus starts before he allowed a run in the 3rd.
Maddon is adding craft beer to his ever-growing brand, officially introducing his new lager. According to its marketing material, Joe Maddon’s Try Not to Suck (that’s really the full name of the beer), released earlier this month, “is a true-to-style helles lager with a soft body rife with grain character, light sweetness and mild bitterness in the finish. It’s an easy-drinking backyard barbecue beer.”
Maddon said he expects Try Not to Suck to be available in Chicago through the baseball season and likely beyond as part of a growing portfolio of products benefiting Respect 90.
I’ll wait until Evan tells me it’s worth trying before I make the commitment to imbibe. Also, in my mind’s eye, I see an unopened can of the brew sitting somewhere on a top shelf in our editor’s personal Cubs shrine.
NEW: Cubs manager Joe Maddon has a beer which, of course, is called Try Not to Suck. Fortunately, it doesn't suck. https://t.co/KzQ6MTQUtT pic.twitter.com/Tk6hTk2bUJ
— Josh Noel (@hopnotes) April 23, 2019
They Said It
- “I know I’ve been throwing the ball really well the last [three] starts. I trust my stuff and the adjustments I’m making. It’s in my mind to get ahead [in the count]. That’s the best chance we have to get the outs.” – José Quintana
- “Never had this play before. It’s just things that come to me, reaction, I don’t know.” – Javier Báez
- “With the way the microbreweries are these days and how popular different brews are today, I thought it would be a natural fit. And from the beer drinker and fan’s perspective, everyone likes new and different beers to try out.” – Joe Maddon
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Groovy Train by The Farm. The Cubs continue to roll.