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Baez stays hot, but Quintana chased early

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

ST. LOUIS -- After giving up six runs on four hits in the first inning on Saturday afternoon, starter Jose Quintana got the Cubs' first hit of the game and his first of the season when he led off the third with a soft single to right. It was a weird day at Busch Stadium that the lefty would like to forget.

Quintana needed 51 pitches to get through the first inning, serving up a grand slam to Marcell Ozuna, in the Cubs' 6-2 loss to the Cardinals. St. Louis now leads the season series, 9-6.

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ST. LOUIS -- After giving up six runs on four hits in the first inning on Saturday afternoon, starter Jose Quintana got the Cubs' first hit of the game and his first of the season when he led off the third with a soft single to right. It was a weird day at Busch Stadium that the lefty would like to forget.

Quintana needed 51 pitches to get through the first inning, serving up a grand slam to Marcell Ozuna, in the Cubs' 6-2 loss to the Cardinals. St. Louis now leads the season series, 9-6.

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"My command was terrible today," Quintana said. "I don't have too much to say. Everybody knows that the first inning was a real battle. My highest pitch [count] of my career [for one inning]. It was terrible command, but it's going to happen."

Video: CHC@STL: Quintana collects his 1st hit of 2018

Quintana was coming off a 121-pitch outing in his last start, during which he picked up the win over Miles Mikolas and the Cardinals at Wrigley Field last Sunday. In the rematch on Saturday, Quintana was lifted after three innings and Mikolas got the win, scattering six hits over six innings.

"Their guy is pretty good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Mikolas. "They pitched well against us. Mikolas throws a lot of ground balls. Every time we thought we had something going, here comes a double play. We have not had good at-bats both days [against the Cardinals]. Part of it, give him credit. He puts the ball on the ground."

Video: CHC@STL: Quintana gets Pham to strike out looking

Neither Quintana nor Maddon blamed the high pitch count in the lefty's previous outing for the aberration on Saturday.

"Before that, it was 85, 87 [pitches in his outings]," Maddon said. "He's been averaging maybe 90 pitches a start all year. There's nothing to do with that. He just didn't find the strike zone.

"He is normally on a good line, a strike-thrower, doesn't beat himself with walks -- that's normally who he is," Maddon said. "I don't have any strong answers. Coming off what he did last time, I thought he'd be looking good. It really comes down to one pitch [to Ozuna], but the walks really hurt him today."

Video: CHC@STL: Maddon on Quintana's rough start vs. Cards

This was the second shortest outing of Quintana's career -- he went 2 1/3 innings on April 14 against the Braves -- and a conundrum.

"I felt really good [warming up]," Quintana said. "During the game, everything's different. In the beginning, my command was terrible. Honestly, that doesn't happen too much to me, and it's really frustrating. My head is high, and I'll turn the page quickly. We're still in a really good position, and there's plenty of time [to get on a roll]."

The Cubs needed three relievers to finish the outing, and they totaled 69 pitches over five innings. Quintana threw 74 pitches in his three innings.

"One thing we want to do with every starter we're facing is we want them all to work hard," Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said. "It's really about getting a ball you can handle and putting a good swing on it. [That was] evident from the first inning on. Really, really, really good at-bats. ... Professional at-bats all the way across, and I think we've been taking those consistently, regardless of the starter."

Javier Baez gave the Cubs a boost with his 21st home run, a two-run shot with one out in the fourth, and his second in as many games. Baez now has a career-high 77 RBIs, and he is the fourth Cubs player in the past 16 seasons to reach 20 homers and 75 RBIs prior to Aug. 1. He will likely also set a new high in home runs; his current best is 23, set last year.

Video: CHC@STL: Heyward cuts down Martinez at third base

The Cubs' rotation has had a tough time providing innings this season, and the starters entered the game averaging 5.4 innings per start with 39 quality starts; the Phillies lead the National League with 51. Chicago is hoping Cole Hamels can provide quality innings when he joins the team. Acquired from the Rangers on Friday, Hamels arrived at Busch Stadium on Saturday and will make his Chicago debut on Wednesday against Pittsburgh.

"I'm excited," Hamels said. "This is always a place I've wanted to play, and I knew there was a strong possibility in 2015 when I was getting traded. … Just to see the talent over here, I'm glad I don't have to face them now."

The loss snapped Quintana's three-game win streak. He'd given up four runs over 19 innings in that stretch.

"He just battled the whole time and could not get in any strike-throwing rhythm whatsoever," Maddon said. "I have no answers. He looked fine, he felt good, he was just not completing it."

Video: CHC@STL: Ozuna hits grand slam after clearing his eye

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fast start: Matt Carpenter bunted on the first pitch from Quintana for a hit, and the Cardinals then made the lefty work and loaded the bases. Quintana walked Jose Martinez to force in a run and Ozuna followed with his fifth career grand slam to open a 5-0 lead. One out later, Dexter Fowler walked to set up Yairo Munoz's RBI double. Seven of the 10 batters in the inning got to a three-ball count against Quintana.

"The bunt -- OK, we don't make the play and then after that, the walks [by Quintana]," Maddon said. "The pitch to Ozuna, he'd love to have that back. [It was] maybe not the right pitch to throw in that situation."

Video: CHC@STL: Carpenter leads off with a bunt single

Relief: The Cubs' relief corps did its job again. Jesse Chavez has provided some stability in the bullpen since his arrival on July 19 in a trade with the Rangers. He needed 41 pitches to throw three scoreless innings on Saturday. In five games, Chavez has given up four hits, walked one and struck out nine over eight innings. Steve Cishek and Cory Mazzoni each threw a perfect inning.

"He's assertive, he's aggressive, he really knows what he's doing out there," Maddon said of Chavez. "He gave up the hit to Mikolas. He took full responsibility. He comes back and gets Carpenter and [Yadier] Molina. He knows what he's doing. He's very resilient.

"He has a very high level of confidence, and it transmits into strike-throwing. It's a nice tool in the toolbox. He's been outstanding."

Video: CHC@STL: Chavez fans Martinez to strand a pair

SOUND SMART
Quintana's 51 pitches were the most needed by any pitcher in the first inning against the Cardinals since 1988. The previous high was 48, set by Kerry Wood in 2000.

HE SAID IT
"The D-backs series and two games here, the offense hasn't been churning like it had been. We have to get good at-bats, line drives to the opposite field. We have to accept our walks, move the baseball. We haven't done that with regularity." -- Maddon

UP NEXT
Kyle Hendricks will close the series against the Cardinals' John Gant. Hendricks has gone at least five innings in 19 of his 21 starts but he hasn't gone much further than that in his outings, which means the bullpen has been busy. In his last outing, he struck out eight, matching a season high. He's 1-0 in two starts against the Cardinals, including a win at Busch Stadium on June 16. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.

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

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Jose Quintana