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'Q' on the ball as Cubs hold Brewers to 3 hits

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MILWAUKEE -- The last time Jose Quintana pitched at Miller Park in September, he threw a three-hit shutout. The lefty nearly matched that on Sunday, holding the Brewers again to three hits over six innings in the Cubs' 3-0 victory.

Maybe he'd like to stay at Miller Park?

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MILWAUKEE -- The last time Jose Quintana pitched at Miller Park in September, he threw a three-hit shutout. The lefty nearly matched that on Sunday, holding the Brewers again to three hits over six innings in the Cubs' 3-0 victory.

Maybe he'd like to stay at Miller Park?

View Full Game Coverage

"No, I want to go home," Quintana said, laughing and echoing the sentiments of the rest of the Cubs.

Ben Zobrist hit a solo home run and Albert Almora Jr. added an RBI double for the Cubs, who finished their season-opening road trip, 5-4. They'll play their first home game of the season on Monday at Wrigley Field.

Video: CHC@MIL: Morrow flies out Aguilar for the save

"We need to get some kind of stability," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's been a nomadic existence for a while."

This was a tough four-game series for the Brewers, and not just because they were facing their National League Central rivals. Milwaukee lost its closer, Corey Knebel, to injury, didn't have outfielder Christian Yelich, and committed seven errors, including a miscue by first baseman Jesus Aguilar in the seventh that led to a Cubs run.

"We've got to be better or it's going to be a really long season," the Brewers' Ryan Braun said. "I think the pitching in our division is far better than I can remember it being at any point in my 12 years now playing in this division. Night in and night out, we are facing really good pitchers. So if we don't come and put together quality at-bats, it's going to be a really long year."

The Cubs were without first baseman Anthony Rizzo, sidelined for the past three games because of tightness in his back. His teammates picked him up, including Zobrist, 36, who seems to have tapped into the fountain of youth. Zobrist launched his first homer of the season leading off the fourth and also singled in the sixth.

Video: CHC@MIL: Zobrist lines a home run to right field

But Quintana was the star. The lefty struck out six, and his only jam came in the sixth when the Brewers had runners at the corners and two outs. He struck out Aguilar on a 75-mph curve to end the inning and his outing.

"You look on paper and [the Brewers] have predominantly right-handed hitters against him," Maddon said. "That doesn't bother 'Q.' If 'Q' is executing his stuff, righties or lefties, he's pretty good. The guy is so focused going into the game. His work is so good. He likes being here, he likes pitching here. I think you're seeing the best side of Jose."

Catcher Willson Contreras could tell Quintana was on before he took the mound.

"He did everything today, he was amazing," Contreras said. "From the first inning on, I knew he was going to have a great game. He had a high level of focus and he kept asking me questions about the hitters. When he's like that, he's going to have a good game."

Video: CHC@MIL: Maddon on Quintana's solid start, series win

Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr. and Brandon Morrow finished the pitching gem. Quintana improved to 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers.

So, what is it about Miller Park?

"I don't know," Quintana said. "I try to be focused, every single pitch every game and attack the zone. Most of the time, I hit my spots. That's what I want to do. That's the only chance I have to get my outs. All my stuff was really good today. Willie and me were on the same page every time."

Quintana joined the Cubs last July in a rare crosstown deal with the White Sox. This year is the first in which he could begin the season with the Cubs. He seems in a good groove.

"We have really high expectations," Quintana said of the Cubs. "It's really good when you start winning at the beginning. We talked a lot before games. We want to do good things this year. We know it's a long season but this month is really important."

Video: CHC@MIL: Almora doubles to right and drives in a run

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fair pole: The teams were scoreless through three innings before Zobrist turned on an inside fastball from Chase Anderson at 90.9 mph -- more than a mph slower than Anderson's average four-seamer -- and sent it off the foul pole in right field for a 1-0 lead. The homer was Zobrist's first this season, and the fourth off Anderson in his 14th inning of the season. Last year, Anderson surrendered 14 home runs in 141 1/3 innings.

"Sometimes things go your way and thankfully that ball stayed fair for me," Zobrist said. "It did start out fair and I saw it hooking, and I thought, 'Just get there, just get to the pole.' It nicked off the side of it. It's nice to get on the board and get some momentum."

Crew mistakes pile up: After a pair of errors aided the Cubs' winning rally in the ninth inning of Saturday's game, another miscue burned the Brewers on Sunday. The Cubs had runners at first and second when Aguilar couldn't come up with Tommy La Stella's one-out grounder in the seventh. Chicago took a 3-0 lead, and Milwaukee notched its 12th error in the opening homestand.

Video: CHC@MIL: La Stella reaches on an error, drives in run

QUOTABLE
"I really like the way our club put together quality at-bats. We played quality baseball the last four days. That's a good team and it's good to get off to a good start against them this year, and hopefully we can continue that." -- Zobrist, on the series

"I don't think we've ever seen him not good." -- Braun, on Quintana

Video: CHC@MIL: Maddon, Quintana, Zobrist on 3-0 victory

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The Brewers still had plenty to be worried about their offense and defense, but Anderson and Zach Davies at least helped calm concern about the starting pitching. Davies on Saturday and Anderson on Sunday delivered Milwaukee's first consecutive quality starts since four in a row last Aug. 30-Sept. 2, before Jimmy Nelson's injury forced the team to use "bullpen days" to navigate games.

• The Cubs have shut out the Brewers multiple times in a single series for the second time. They also did so Sept. 10-11, 2010. Chicago now is 21-9 at Miller Park since July 30, 2015.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Lorenzo Cain singled to open the Brewers' first and one out later, Contreras tried to throw him out when he took a big lead off first with a throw to first baseman Victor Caratini. Cain was called safe, but the Cubs challenged the ruling. After a review, the call was overturned.

Video: CHC@MIL: Contreras picks off Cain at first base

INJURY UPDATE
Rizzo did not start Sunday for the third straight game, still sidelined by stiffness in his lower back. He was questionable for the Cubs' home opener on Monday. More >>

WHAT'S NEXT
The Cubs finally get to come home. Monday will be their first game at Wrigley Field and they are the final MLB team to play at home. Tyler Chatwood gets the start. In his Cubs debut on April 2 against the Reds, the right-hander gave up one run on four hits over six innings but also walked six. Rizzo may not be available because of stiffness in his lower back. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT. The forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 30s. It'll be brisk.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Jose Quintana