Jose Quintana on Cubs’ playoff rotation: ‘I know I’ll be there’

PITTSBURGH — Don’t tell Jose Quintana he doesn’t know what it’s like to pitch in a playoff game.

“It felt like that tonight,” he said after he and the Cubs survived a gem by Pirates ace Gerrit Cole to beat the Pirates 1-0 on Alex Avila’s ninth-inning triple Wednesday night at PNC Park. “Tonight was the kind of games we’ll face in October. There weren’t too many fans tonight, but it was a tough game. It was a pitcher’s game.”

Quintana, who was acquired from the White Sox at the All-Star break, pitched six scoreless innings, making it two strong starts in a row after struggling for most of August.

The left-hander has made a point to say since the trade how much he’s looking forward to a pennant race and the chance at October baseball for the first time in his career.

Quintana struck out six and walked one in six scoreless innings Wednesday. "I'm really happy we took the 'W,' " he said after getting a no-decision. "It's not about me. It's about the team."

He also knows one of the five starters will get dropped from the rotation once the playoffs start, and assuming Jake Arrieta is back to full strength from a hamstring strain, Quintana could be a close call for the last spot.

“I would not use the phrase that he has to show us anything. I think he’s been throwing the ball great,” said manager Joe Maddon, who — like when he was asked about John Lackey over the weekend — would not bite on the playoff-rotation question.

“He’s very excited about this moment. There’s no question about that,” Maddon said. “But there’s nothing for him to prove to us right now. I have not looked at it that way at all.”

Quintana, who has been more aggressive the last two starts with his offspeed pitches, hasn’t either.

“I don’t pay attention to that right now,” said Quintana, who went from a heavier dose of curveballs last week against the Pirates to a disproportionate use of his changeup Wednesday. “I just try to do my job, and whatever they want to take, I’m ready for that.

“But honestly, I want to be there. So I know I’ll be there.”

Avila’s dual focus

Avila, another newcomer acquired in a trade from the Tigers in July, delivered another big game for the Cubs while keeping one eye on Hurricane Irma bearing down on his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“Not one eye,” he said. “I’ve got both my eyes [on it]. It’s been a little nerve-wracking the last couple of days just watching the weather reports. I’ve been just sitting in the hotel room watching the weather channel all morning, talking to my wife and cousins and friends.”

Avila’s family is flying from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago on Thursday.

“I wasn’t messing around with that,” he said.

Until then, he managed to play strong behind the plate again to help his pitchers keep the Pirates scoreless until he delivered the game-winning triple with two outs in the ninth off Daniel Hudson.

“Cole pretty much had no-hit stuff,” Avila said of the right-hander who gave up just two hits in eight innings.

Contreras in action

Catcher Willson Contreras (hamstring) left Wednesday to join advanced Class A Myrtle Beach to start a brief minor-league rehab assignment during the Pelicans’ playoff series, which starts Thursday.

Contreras is scheduled to play three or four defensive innings and get two at-bats Thursday, then DH and bat three times Friday.

Saturday is a scheduled evaluation day, at which point the club may decide to activate him.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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