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Cubs see Jose Quintana finding another level

Jared Wyllys
NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs see Jose Quintana finding another level

Thanks to the Jose Quintana-Victor Caratini show Tuesday night, the Cubs shut out the Brewers, 3-0, and ensured that they will leave this week's series in first place.

Thanks to the Jose Quintana-Victor Caratini show Tuesday night, the Cubs shut out the Brewers, 3-0, and ensured that they will leave this week's series in first place.

Quintana threw 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven and scattering five Milwaukee baserunners. He was perfect through his first three innings, and this was one of the best performances he has had in a Cubs uniform, according to manager Joe Maddon.

"These last two are different level of Q," Maddon said, referring to Tuesday's start as well as his last outing, against the Brewers on September 5. "They know the fastball's coming, and it's still getting on them. And then when he throws the curveball, it becomes more pertinent. Nice arm speed on the changeup."

Quintana attacked Brewers hitters with 16 of his 21 first pitches coming in for strikes.

"I feel more strong with my fastball," Quintana said. "My command was fantastic."

The Cubs starter said that a tweak in his mechanics has helped boost the confidence in his stuff. Quintana was dropping his front shoulder toward third base, which opened the shoulder and made it hard to keep his arm and leg in rhythm. Now he is focusing on keeping his right shoulder lined up with home plate throughout, and it's making the difference.

"I feel stronger when I throw the ball, so I'm gonna keep it there," Quintana said.

He added that keeping his front shoulder lined up has given more life to his fastball, which compliments his secondary pitches and makes them more effective as well.

"Most of the time, I feel like I fight with my delivery," Quintana said "and now I find what I need to do and it's been better the last couple outings. I need to stay there and keep rolling."

Quintana's batterymate, Caratini, supplied the bulk of Tuesday's offense, much of it during a ten-pitch at bat in the 2nd inning. After Ben Zobrist reached on an error, Javy Baez walked, and both runners advanced on Tommy La Stella's ground out, Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin attempted a pick off at second base that went into the outfield. Zobrist scored from third, and then with the infield in, Caratini popped a single in to right center that scored Baez.

"Honestly, all I had in my mind was get that run in and have a good at bat," Caratini said after the game.

Caratini hit an RBI double in the 7th to give the Cubs their third run of the night. Despite not playing often as he serves as backup to Willson Contreras, Caratini put together two very quality at bats on Tuesday. Maddon said that he spends much of his off the field time doing homework on opposing pitchers so that he can be ready for when his moments come.

And lately when they have, he has handled them like a much more seasoned hitter. Caratini hit a grand slam in Washington, and without his bat on Tuesday, the tenor of the game changes significantly. And he might just be wired to handle those moments.

"It's in my nature to be calm. I'm naturally a calm person, and I think that carries over onto the field as well," Caratini said.

Working with Quintana for the first time this season since August 3, Caratini also called a very good game, according to his pitcher.

"The whole time, we were on the same page," Quintana said.

In his last five starts since a five-run clunker against Milwaukee on August 14, Quintana has thrown three quality starts, and he has not given up more than two earned runs. In September, Quintana's ERA is 1.35.

Next-level Quintana would be a very nice carry over to the postseason, and he's feeling that energy.

"This time, it's pre-postseason. September, every game is a huge game," Quintana said. "It's really good to get W's and get back to the playoffs at this time. I'm really happy to take this huge game. Keep rolling."


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