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Jose Quintana savoring 7-start pizza roll for Cubs

With Wednesday’s 10-1 win over the Athletics, the Cubs have won all seven of Quintana’s starts since the left-hander “ordered” a pizza from the bullpen in Cincinnati in June.

Oakland Athletics v Chicago Cubs
Jose Quintana (10-7) is the first Cub to reach 10 wins this season, earning his sixth consecutive victory with seven exceptional innings against the Athletics Wednesday.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Must be the pizza.

“Oh, yeah,” Jose Quintana said after leading the Cubs to a 10-1 victory Wednesday over the Athletics. “Seven games after that, right?”

Seven games. Seven Cubs victories.

All of it starting in June in Cincinnati when Quintana called from the bullpen phone to the dugout, and then played along with a media wise guy and “ordered” a pepperoni pizza.

The next day he ended a nine-game winless drought. On Wednesday, he improved to 6-0 with a 3.67 ERA during the seven-start stretch since then, allowing just two hits without a walk and striking out seven in seven innings against the A’s.

Ian Happ hit a grand slam in a five-run fourth. Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run shot in a four-run fifth. And Victor Caratini added a solo shot in the eighth.

“But the way Q pitched permitted all of that to happen,” said manager Joe Maddon, whose club finished off a 5-1 homestand.

The Cubs own a three-game lead in the division over the second-place Brewers. The Cardinals are 3½ games back.

“The big thing right now is to play good on the road,” said Quintana of the Cubs’ miserable road record (including 22 losses in their last 31 games).

Being hot again as they open a 10-game trip Thursday in Cincinnati can’t hurt.

Maybe they just need to keep the pizza oven turned up. It’s worked for at least one Cubs player.

“Don’t change nothing,” Quintana said with a smile. “Pepperoni — keep it pepperoni.”

What a relief?

Rookie right-hander Duane Underwood’s six-strikeout performance in his two-inning season debut for the Cubs on Tuesday night earned him not only a longer look but possibly a look in a higher leverage situation for an injury-depleted bullpen.

In an 11-4 loss, Underwood struck out all of the six batters he faced. He’s the first Cub since at least 1900 to face at least six hitters and strike them all out. The six consecutive strikeouts tie the franchise record (also Juan Cruz in 2003 and Bruce Sutter in 1977).

“He threw strikes, threw the fastball where he wanted it, and 96 mph down to a changeup like that,” Maddon said. “In a close game, that could also play. So let’s find out.”

Same goes for rookie Rowan Wick, who could also see some higher leverage chances, Maddon said.

The Cubs need all the firepower they can get in the bullpen as they open their trip with closer Craig Kimbrel on the injured list until at least Wednesday with a knee injury, setup man Brandon Kintzler (2.33 ERA) out until at least Friday with a pec injury and Pedro Strop still working back to full strength after an IL stint.

Second thoughts for Happ

Outfielder Ian Happ’s long awaited return from the minors last month wasn’t expected to include much work at second base, but that changed when he started to look better at the plate in recent days.

“The way he’s swinging the bat right now, I was creatively trying to get him in the lineup, and we’ll see how it plays,” Maddon said before Happ delivered the game-changing grand slam during a 2-for-4 performance.

“This could be very beneficial to us moving down the road.”