Quintana rebounds to shut down Pirates, K's 11

Left-hander hurls 7 scoreless after being tagged for 8 runs in his last start

April 12th, 2019

CHICAGO -- In ’s previous start in Milwaukee on April 5, in which he gave up eight earned runs in three innings, he looked like a shell of the pitcher the Cubs thought they were trading for in 2017.

His latest outing in Thursday’s 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates gave him and the Cubs reason for optimism in the months to come, as the left-hander struck out 11 batters in seven scoreless innings.

“That was dominant. Strike throwing. Strikeouts. Everything was working. Changeup, curveball, fastball, elevated fastball, fastball in,” said manager Joe Maddon, who was ejected in the fifth inning after arguing balls and strikes. “He was outstanding, and we needed that because their guy is really good, too. Musgrove, every time we see him, it's got to be 1-0 or 2-1 or whatever. He's very good also. You've got to pitch better than good pitching to win.”

The equalizer?

The addition of more changeups.

Quintana threw 13 changeups Thursday night, and of those changeups just two were put in play by Pirates hitters. He threw just six changeups in his outing vs. the Brewers.

“The changeup was great. It was a pitch I threw tonight, and it was coming off effective [and worked] great with my curveball and fastball. And I used it more, more than before, so that's really good,” Quintana said of his effective pitch. “That's what I've been working on during Spring Training. I brought that to the season. I can use it, and when you have three pitches, you have more chances to face a whole lineup more times.”

Quintana has always had a deep array of pitches, but being behind in counts against the Brewers in his last start, he could only use two of them.

Tonight, getting ahead of hitters allowed Quintana to feature his changeup more. Add that to the well-located fastball and curveball and you have the recipe for his dominant start.

"I think he had really good control of his three main pitches, and I thought his changeup was outstanding,” catcher Victor Caratini said. “That's really what set us up to be able to do what we did today."

The Cubs have been looking for better outings from their starting pitchers and with the depth of the rotation being tested with Jon Lester on the injured list, Quintana’s start gives a boost to the rest of the staff.

Quintana finished the night by allowing just four hits in seven shutout innings. He walked one against his 11 strikeouts, the most by a Cubs pitcher this season.

The only other time he’s fanned 11 as a Cub was in his in Chicago debut against Baltimore on July 16, 2017.

It was also the first time this season that Cubs starting pitchers have gone five innings or more in consecutive days with Yu Darvish pitching 5 1/3 innings Wednesday.

“We need that deeper start to really parcel out this bullpen properly and not put too much taxation on them," Maddon said. "That's a great way to start it. ... It can be contagious -- no question.”