Jose Quintana threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and Victor Caratini drove in two runs to help the Cubs post a 3-0 victory Tuesday night over the Brewers and regain a two-game lead in the National League Central.
"This is a battle, for sure," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said. "It's a totally different mindset being in first than chasing, so we've got to do everything we can to stay in first."
No matter what happens in the series finale at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, the Cubs will maintain the lead in the Central. These two teams could meet again in the NL Division Series. If they do, you know Quintana will be on the mound.
He retired the first nine batters he faced, then gave up a single to Lorenzo Cain and walked Christian Yelich in the fourth before settling down and retiring the next nine in a row. Jesus Aguilar singled to lead off the seventh for the Brewers' second hit off Quintana.
"We've been unable to solve him, for sure," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think basically once we've solved him in maybe the nine starts he's pitched against us. He pitched good. His fastball was located quite a bit today in different parts of the zone. He slows it down with the curveball a little bit. Not enough hits. Bottom line, we just didn't get enough hits."
Quintana has tweaked his delivery after some advice from coaches Jim Hickey and Mike Borzello, and the lefty said the changes helped his fastball command.
"It's really hard when they face you most of the time," Quintana said about dealing with the Brewers. "It's part of the game. We face a lot of teams in our division and in my opinion, we try to do the best every time we go to the mound. This win is special to me. I want to keep rolling in first place now."
This was Quintana's sixth start this season against the Brewers, and the Cubs have won five of those games. The lefty improved to 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA (nine earned runs over 37 1/3 innings) against Milwaukee.
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin gave up one hit -- Caratini's RBI single -- over five innings and got support from Cain, who made a stellar catch in the third when he robbed Kris Bryant of an extra-base hit. However, one of the Cubs' runs was unearned because of a throwing error by Chacin.
"Potentially playing 30 days in a row is -- listen, I love all my teammates, but seeing them 30 days in a row is not what I intend to do," Rizzo said.
Is there anyone in particular he didn't want to see?
"Just the collective unit," Rizzo joked. "For a human being, if you go to the same workplace -- I know what we do is amazing. But if we do [play 30 straight], we do it. We'll get through it. It's just that one day, one pitch, one at-bat at a time mentality."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY With one out in the ninth, Ryan Braun hit a grounder to shortstop Addison Russell who threw to Rizzo at first for the out. The Brewers challenged the call but after review, it was confirmed. Rizzo did have to do the splits to catch the ball.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Count 'em: Caratini deserved credit for the Cubs' first two runs. Ben Zobrist was at third and Javier Baez at second in the second and Caratini was ahead, 2-0, in the count. Caratini then fouled off six consecutive pitches from Chacin, who tried to pick off Baez at second but his throw sailed into center. Zobrist scored. On the 10th pitch of Caratini's at-bat, he lined a single just out of reach of Jonathan Schoop to drive in Baez.
Baez's aggressiveness was responsible for Chacin's error. The Brewers noticed he was taking a big secondary lead.
"We got our signals crossed," Counsell said. "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 [Arcia] was late getting there. He was calling for an inside move, which is a different timing on the play."
"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."
Wilson answers call: Reliever Justin Wilson provided a key moment in the seventh. The Brewers had runners on first and second and two outs when pinch-hitter Hernan Perez was called out after hitting a grounder to second baseman Daniel Murphy. The Brewers challenged the ruling and after a review, the call was overturned and the bases were loaded. Wilson took over for Quintana and struck out pinch-hitter Manny Pina on three pitches to end the inning.
"The command and the conviction per pitch -- I love that he went after him with his fastball," Maddon said of Wilson. "That's a game changer."
SOUND SMART • In his last five starts, Quintana has compiled a 1.84 ERA, striking out 25 over 29 1/3 innings. In 10 career starts against the Brewers, he has a 1.60 ERA, fanning 63 over 67 1/3 innings.
• Nine of the 18 games between the two teams have been shutouts, and Tuesday was the Cubs' sixth. The Cubs lead the Majors with 16 shutouts.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Cain robbed Bryant of a potential extra-base hit in the third with a running catch.
"He plays the game with a joy about him and he's very loose," Maddon said of Cain. "Him and Dexter [Fowler] have that same kind of leadoff mentality with a joy for the game and I appreciate that. I called him 'Citizen Cain' in Kansas City. I think he's one of the best leadoff hitters in the game right now, if not the best."
HE SAID IT "That's the fun part of the game. If you don't have somebody to fight, it's not going to be fun." -- Strop, on the close race in the NL Central
"Realistically, three games back with 15 to go after [Wednesday would not be] not ideal. So we need to win the series. We know we need to win the series to have a shot at the division, and we still have that in front of us." -- Milwaukee's Travis Shaw
UP NEXT Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.71 ERA) will start the Cubs' final meeting in this NL Central showdown, facing Chase Anderson (9-7, 3.95). Hendricks is 2-0 in three starts against the Brewers this year, and the Cubs have won seven of his last eight starts. Anderson has been stingy against the Cubs, giving up three earned runs over 20 innings in three starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.