CHICAGO -- The Brewers needed nothing short of a three-game sweep of the Cubs to claim first place in the National League Central and flip the flags atop Wrigley Field. Like he's done so many times before, Jose Quintana got in the way.The left-hander added 6 2/3 scoreless innings to
CHICAGO -- The Brewers needed nothing short of a three-game sweep of the Cubs to claim first place in the National League Central and flip the flags atop Wrigley Field. Like he's done so many times before, Jose Quintana got in the way.
The left-hander added 6 2/3 scoreless innings to his lifetime ledger against Milwaukee in a 3-0 Cubs win on Tuesday that denied the Brewers a share of first place. They fell two games back of Chicago in the NL Central standings, and must win Wednesday's series finale to avoid losing ground in the division race with 2 1/2 weeks to go.
It's one game, but it could make a big difference.
"Realistically, three games back with 15 to go after [Wednesday would not be] ideal. So we need to win the series," said infielder Travis Shaw. "We know we need to win the series to have a shot at the division, and we still have that in front of us."
The Brewers still sit atop the NL Wild Card standings, 1 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis and 4 1/2 games ahead of the next-closest team, the Dodgers.
"We're in as of now, but obviously we would like to avoid the Wild Card Game," Shaw said.
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin committed one of his team's two costly errors in Chicago's two-run second inning, and that was enough for Quintana, who got a big assist from reliever Justin Wilson in the seventh to continue his career spell over Milwaukee.
Tuesday's performance -- three hits, no runs, two walks, seven strikeouts -- lowered Quintana's lifetime ERA against the Brewers to 1.60 in 10 starts -- compared to 3.71 against everyone else. In the past two seasons, when he has done most of that work, Quintana has a 1.89 ERA in eight starts against the Brewers and a 4.46 ERA against everyone else. That explains why the Cubs made sure he appeared in each of the six series between the teams. The Cubs were 5-1 in those games.
"We've been unable to solve him," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
What explains that?
"I know personally, when you have success against a pitcher or off a team, any time they roll in, you're ready to go. You don't think anything bad's going to happen," Shaw said. "I assume that's how he feels with us.
"I don't think it's anything in here. I don't think we're scared to face him or anything like that. He's got good mojo against us and he seems to execute every time he pitches against us."
Quintana conquered two threats.
In the fourth inning, Lorenzo Cain's leadoff single gave the Brewers their first baserunner, and Christian Yelich followed with a walk. But Quintana got Jesus Aguilar looking at a called strike three, then retired Ryan Braun and Jonathan Schoop to preserve a 2-0 lead.
In the seventh, Aguilar singled and Shaw battled for a nine-pitch walk. When Hernan Perez hustled out a pinch-hit single -- he was initially called out, but the Brewers successfully challenged -- Wilson took over and struck out pinch-hitter Manny Pina on three pitches.
Pina fell to 9-for-67 (.134) with runners in scoring position and 1-for-8 with the bases loaded this season. Mike Moustakas was an option, but that would have made for a lefty-lefty matchup, rendering the choice "neutral," Counsell said. He preferred to hold Moustakas.
"That was a big point in the game," Shaw said. "[Quintana] was wearing down a little bit, and that was our opportunity to strike. Wilson came in and made a couple good pitches to get out of it."
Chacin took the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit in five innings before Counsell went to his bench in the top of the sixth inning in an effort to stir up some offense. Chacin walked one, struck out five and threw 75 pitches before that call to the 'pen.
"I think we had to," Counsell said. "We're down 2-0, we've got 12 guys in the bullpen. We had to try to score runs. … We basically had two opportunities and couldn't cash in on them."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
While the Brewers' NL MVP candidate, Yelich, extended his on-base streak to 27 games despite a hitless night, the Cubs' MVP candidate, Javier Baez, once again forced a Brewers mistake with his aggressiveness on the basepaths.
A Schoop fielding error got the Cubs going in the second inning, and Baez walked to help the Cubs put runners at second and third with one out. With Baez dancing off the bag while Chacin engaged catcher Victor Caratini in an at-bat that would go 10 pitches, the Brewers called for a pickoff. But Chacin's throw sailed past shortstop Orlando Arcia and into center field for a run-scoring error that pushed Baez to third. That brought the Brewers infield in for Caratini's RBI single off the glove of a leaping Schoop.
"We got our signals crossed," Counsell said of the pickoff. "Jhoulys saw it as a timing pick and it was supposed to be an inside move, where you pick your leg up. That's why it looked like Orlando was late getting there. He was calling for an inside move, which is a different timing on the play."
"I just threw the ball too high," Chacin said. "I had the sinker grip in my hand and the ball sailed."
Was it worth the risk with a runner at third?
"We're trying to get outs. Outs are worth risks, yeah," Counsell said. "We thought we had a chance at an out there. [Baez] was being very aggressive with his secondary lead."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Cain has a knack for making incredibly difficult plays look relatively easy. That was the case in the third inning, when he ranged toward the left-center gap to track down Kristopher Bryant's would-be double with a running catch. That fly ball had a 92 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™.
"The thing is, he stayed on his feet, too," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "He does a lot of things well. The catch he made on [Jon Lester on Monday] was a game-changer as it turned out, and that could've been again today. He plays the game with a joy about him and he's very loose. … I think he's one of the best leadoff hitters in the game right now -- if not the best."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Brewers own baseball's lowest success rate on replays, but they won a big one to keep their seventh-inning rally going. Perez had to hustle on his soft bouncer to second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had to contend with Shaw crossing right in front of him as he scooped up the baseball and threw to first base. Perez opted to slide headfirst and was initially called out, but that was overturned.
The second video review of the night did not go the Brewers' way. With one out in the ninth, Braun hit a grounder to shortstop Addison Russell, who threw to Anthony Rizzo at first for the out. The Brewers challenged the call, but it was confirmed. Rizzo did have to do the splits to catch the ball.
• Bote couldn't believe Russell's diving grab
The Brewers' streak of six consecutive series victories is on the line Wednesday, when Chase Anderson takes the mound for Milwaukee against Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs at 7:05 p.m. CT. Anderson owns a 2.91 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cubs, including a 1.35 ERA in three starts this season.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.