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Cubs hope Quintana can slow surging Pirates

Special to MLB.com

The Cubs envisioned that Jose Quintana would help provide answers in the rotation, but the left-hander has posed a few questions instead.

He will make an important start Wednesday, when the Cubs take on the Pirates and starter Gerrit Cole in the third game of a four-game series at PNC Park. The Bucs have taken the first two games of the series, winning four straight overall, while the Cubs have dropped three straight as they try to protect their National League Central lead.

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The Cubs envisioned that Jose Quintana would help provide answers in the rotation, but the left-hander has posed a few questions instead.

He will make an important start Wednesday, when the Cubs take on the Pirates and starter Gerrit Cole in the third game of a four-game series at PNC Park. The Bucs have taken the first two games of the series, winning four straight overall, while the Cubs have dropped three straight as they try to protect their National League Central lead.

View Full Game Coverage

When the defending World Series champs acquired Quintana from the White Sox for four players at the All-Star break, they were 43-45. Quintana was the White Sox ace (13-12, 3.20 ERA in 2016), and Chicago needed pitching help.

Since then, the Cubs have gone 32-18. Quintana is 5-3 with Chicago, but he owns a 4.50 ERA -- appearing to carry over the struggles he was having on the South Side, where he was 4-8 with a 4.49 ERA. In six August starts his ERA was 5.73.

Quintana is getting better run support with his new team, however, as evidenced by his most recent start last Wednesday, when the Cubs beat the Pirates, 17-3, at Wrigley Field. Quintana yielded a pair of first-inning runs and another in the sixth before he departed. It was one of his better outings of late.

"Hopefully that can be a catapult for him," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said afterward. "He was very good."

Maddon added he believed Quintana was "over-amped" trying to impress with his new club. The skipper added, "I still think he's settling in."

Cole (11-9, 4.11) posted a 3.17 ERA in 10 starts from early July to late August but ran into trouble in his last outing, yielding five earned runs in six innings against the Reds. That was at PNC Park, where he has not won since June 13.

Three things to know about this game

• According to Statcast, Quintana racked up a season-high 26 called strikes in his start against the Pirates last week, the highest single-game total for a Cubs pitcher in 2017.

• Cole is 2-5 with a 4.48 ERA at PNC Park, while going 9-4 with a 3.79 ERA on the road.

• When the Cubs return home Friday to play Milwaukee, they will face their first opponent with a winning record since Aug. 13, a span of 24 games.

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates