When the Cubs have needed him in September, Jose Quintana has delivered

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Starting pitcher Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on September 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – For a majority of the summer, when his starts were erratics, and his ERA continued to rise over four, some were questioning the Cubs’ thinking a year earlier.

That’s when they acquired Jose Quintana in a major prospects deal with the White Sox,  giving the South Siders prized prospect Eloy Jimenez for the left-hander’s services. Since then, he’s climbed up their system, and success has followed him each place.

With the Charlotte Knights, Jimenez hit .355 with 12 homers and 33 RBI, which had fans calling for his promotion to the major league level in September.

Because of that, a few Cubs fans had some lament about the deal, wondering if they’d given away too much for a pitcher that struggled to find consistency almost the entire 2018 season. But so far in September, they’re singing a different tune.

To be frank, the Cubs are probably still in first place thanks to Quintana’s efforts.

In two starts against the Brewers, the lefty has come through to pull the team through a pair of critical games against their division rivals, shedding his inconsistency in a pair of gems. The latest came on Tuesday night, when his 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball along with seven strikeouts helped the Cubs to a 3-0 victory at Wrigley Field. That victory prevented Milwaukee from pulling even with the Cubs for the top spot in the NL Central, a position they’ve held by themselves since the start of August.

“That was awesome, that one of the best of him that I’ve seen,” said reliever Pedro Strop, who closed out Quintana’s gem in the ninth. “He was on it, he was focused, he was making his pitch.”

That effort, which dropped his season era under four to 3.97 while giving him his 13th win of the year, was similar to the one he had on September 5th at Milwaukee, when the Brewers had the chance to pull within two by completing the sweep at Miller Park. Quintana contained the host’s strong offense, limiting Milwaukee to just two runs in another 6 2/3 inning effort that gave the Cubs a 6-4 victory.

All of these came after an August where Quintana was 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA, which included allowing five runs to Milwaukee on August 14th at Wrigley Field in a 7-0 loss. Yet after that start came signs of a rebound for the starter, who allowed four earned runs in his next three starts in the month. Now has come a pair of strong performances, efforts which Quintana credited to a slight change in strategy.

“I feel more strong with my fastball and I use it the most right now,” said Quintana. “My command was fantastic and I want to stay there, keep attacking the zone early. That’s one of my abilities, that’s my only chance to get quick outs and stay longer in the game.”

“I feel really good with the fastball.”

Joe Maddon agreed with Quintana and admitted that he’s been at a different level the last two games then at any point this season. Evidence for such a run can be found in 2017, when Quintana followed up a rough August (5.73 ERA) with a 2-0 September with a 2.51 ERA.

He’ll need more of that since he’s got a few starts left to help the Cubs clinch their spot in the playoffs, and ideally a third-consecutive NL Central title.

“There is a very confident look about him. He’s a very humble man so you have to really look in there,” said Maddon of Quintana. “But he’s very confident and I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at right now – and he’s got to love the way the ball is coming out of his hand. They’ve been working on the change-up, which looked really good and then the curve ball, like I said, you could see the sharpness from the side, he was leaving it up there short, making them swing at it.

“Just a really good method.”

Certainly it’s helping fans to feel a little bit better about the process which the Cubs attained the pitcher.