Jose Quintana really blew it.
Blew a chance, that is, to become the first Cubs pitcher since Ryan Dempster in 2012 — and the first Cubs lefty since Ken Holtzman in 1969 — to string together three straight scoreless starts covering at least seven innings apiece.
Yes, we are using “blew” very loosely.
The new, unofficial Cubs ace? That might be stretching it, but Quintana (3-1) was locked in again Tuesday in a 7-2 victory against the Dodgers in the opener of a three-game series at Wrigley Field. He went seven strong innings for the third straight outing and came close to keeping the National League’s highest-scoring team off the scoreboard.
The Dodgers put one across in the third inning on a two-out double by Justin Turner that center fielder Jason Heyward undoubtedly would like another crack at reeling in. It certainly was a makeable play.
Quintana gave up one more run on a ground out in the seventh, but manager Joe Maddon showed tremendous faith in him in by leaving him in to face powerful pinch hitter Max Muncy with two men on. Quintana caught Muncy looking on a 3-2 count on his 114th pitch, his third-most in 50 starts with the Cubs.
Maddon was close to pulling Quintana before Muncy’s at-bat, but he deferred to the strong wishes of pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.
“I appreciated that,” Quintana said.
At 11-10, the Cubs, 8-2 over their last 10 games, moved above .500 for the first time since Opening Day. More important, their pitching staff — the starting rotation in particular — continued to hum along. Cubs starters have a 1.39 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 15 walks over the last 10 games.
Oh, yes, he did
No big deal — all Javy Baez did to entertain the masses was make throws from impossibly deep in the hole at shortstop, score from first on a double to left, hit his team-leading seventh home run and add one of his best base-running moves yet to his highlight reel.
Dodgers first baseman David Freese won’t soon forget standing with the ball on the baseline in between Baez and the bag, only for Baez to deke to the inside of the line and dive in safely as Freese whiffed badly with the tag.
Baez said he first saw Royals speedster Billy Hamilton make the move during his days with the Reds. Cubs third-base coach Brian Butterfield likened Baez to former Bears great Gale Sayers.
Lester getting close
Lurking around the Cubs clubhouse was Jon Lester, who has been easing his way back into action since straining a hamstring during the home opener April 9. Will Lester get the ball in Thursday’s series finale? Maddon was noncommittal but encouraging.
“ ‘Perhaps’ is looking well right now,” Maddon said.
The Cubs placed infielder David Bote on the paternity list and recalled lefty reliever Randy Rosario from Class AAA Iowa. Bote was expected to be back as soon as Wednesday. Sullivan Bote can always say his old man got a walk-off base hit in his last game before becoming a third-time father.
Top infield prospect Nico Hoerner left a game at Class AA Tennessee in the second inning after he was hit in the hand by a pitch.