MILWAUKEE — Whether it involves themselves, the Brewers or somebody else in the division, the Cubs are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the National League Central before the non-waiver trade deadline at 3 p.m. Monday.
What’s the next acquisition that will have an effect on the clustered division race? Will the Brewers land their version of Jose Quintana and acquire Athletics ace Sonny Gray? Will the Cardinals add a bat — or decide to add anything at all? And what about the Pirates?
The Brewers’ 2-1 victory against the Cubs in the opener of a three-game series Friday at Miller Park tightened the race and heightened the drama in the division.
Quintana did his job again in his third start since joining the Cubs in a trade July 13 from the White Sox.
Despite what he called a slow start, Quintana retired the final seven batters he faced to hold the Brewers to two runs in six innings. He got a sizable assist from Jason Heyward, who reached over the right-field wall to rob Ryan Braun of a would-be two-run home run in the third.
‘‘That play was amazing,’’ said Quintana, who’s 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts with the Cubs. ‘‘I tried to keep the game close and tried to wait for the comeback. It was a tough night, and we’ll come back tomorrow.’’
Javy Baez hit a long homer against former White Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak with one out in the eighth of a game Quintana said had a playoff atmosphere to it.
In fact, sold-out Miller Park got especially loud in the ninth, when the Cubs had the tying run on third base before pinch hitter Kyle Schwarber struck out against Brewers closer Corey Knebel to end the game. It was only the Cubs’ third loss in 14 games since the All-Star break.
‘‘It was a cool moment,’’ Schwarber said. ‘‘Everyone’s into it. It was a fun little battle right there. He got me, and I’ll be ready for tomorrow.’’
With barely two months left in the regular season and the Cubs holding a half-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central, the
division race might look a lot like this for a while. That makes what happens before the trade deadline especially intriguing.
‘‘You’re looking what everybody else is doing in that regard, I agree with that,’’ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘But right now, being so proactive as we were to get Quintana . . . we’ve already had him for [three] starts. So we’ve already been proactively in front of some other groups by getting that done. Now anything you could do on top of that in a positive vein, absolutely it’s going to benefit us.’’
The emotional boost and energy the Quintana trade brought to the clubhouse was almost as significant as his pitching, and it seemed to come at an ideal time for the Cubs after they struggled into the break.
Quintana’s hard-luck loss to the Brewers was the first for the Cubs’ rotation since the break. The rested, stabilized rotation is 10-1 with a 2.54 ERA in those 14 games.
And if the Brewers, who had struggled out of the break until beating the Cubs, were to land the starting pitcher they seek?
‘‘Same thing,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I don’t doubt that they’re going to probably do something. I don’t know what the Cardinals and the Pirates are thinking right now. But at the end of the day, we’ve just got to worry about what we’re doing.
‘‘And I think it’s going to be hard to duplicate what we’ve already done in regards to getting Quintana.’’
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