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Controlling moment key for Cubs’ Quintana, Cooper says

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper will be a Cubs fan Monday. Because he’s a Jose Quintana fan.

“I’m going to be pulling for him,’’ Cooper said Sunday of the left-hander he ranks among his most-prized pupils. “I could never pull against him.’’

Quintana, who was traded from the Sox to the Cubs during the All-Star break, spent his first five seasons under Cooper and made an impression with his work ethic, desire to improve, preparation and durability.

“I love him in every respect,’’ said Cooper, who scoreboard-watched every time Quintana pitched for the Cubs.

Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana throws to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 24. (AP)

Quintana will be loved in every respect by Cubs nation if he comes through when the Cubs play the Nationals in a pivotal Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday at Wrigley Field. He will oppose Nats ace right-hander Max Scherzer, which is something he has done in Sox–Tigers wars. Pitching in the postseason is something he has not.

“The big thing about the playoffs, it’s like a shot of B-12,’’ Cooper said. “So he’s going to have extra amperage and will have to control his emotions, which I think he’s good at. He’s also good at throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of hitters. I expect him to be good.’’

That extra amperage in the postseason “can work two ways,’’ Cooper said.

“If you control the moment and make the [catcher’s] glove your first and last thought, then you have a chance to climb to heights you’ve never climbed before,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, if you don’t control it, it can take you to depths you never want to go. But I trust he’s going to be fine with that.’’

Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana visits with his former pitching coach, the White Sox’s Don Cooper, before a game between the two Chicago teams July 24, 2017, at Wrigley Field.  |  AP

Calling it “a gift to open the postseason here at home,’’ Quintana said he wasn’t feeling the pressure Sunday. But he knows about pressure and of the excitement levels Cooper alluded to from pitching for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 11.

How did that go? He held Team USA to one hit in 5⅔ innings, his start halted by a 65-pitch restriction. That was like a World Series for Quintana.

“America was lucky because he had it going on that day,’’ Cooper said.

Quintana said he feels really good approaching Monday.

“I think I’m so excited, I try to be like, you know, cool, but be [in the] present and focus on my game,’’ he said.

“Like I say, I don’t want to change nothing. Just throw my ball well and just focus, pitch by pitch. In a short series, it’s really important, every pitch.’’

Which is something Quintana has grasped for some time.

“We’ve known for a while in our clubhouse who he was and what he was about,’’ Cooper said. “I’m sure the Cubs know that now.’’

As a Cub, Quintana is 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 13 starts. He threw seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball with 12 strikeouts in Baltimore in his first start as a Cub on July 13, and he threw a three-hit shutout in Milwaukee in his next-to-last start Sept. 24. Both were badly needed performances at the time for the Cubs, who could use another Monday.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was still talking about the Brewers game Sunday.

“God, he had a great look,’’ Maddon said. “We’re all into reading people’s faces and their vibe and their energy and all that stuff. And he had it. My only concern is that he’s over-amped a little bit too much, too soon tomorrow afternoon. But he’s wanted to be this guy. When he came over, that’s the first thing he talked to me about was getting to the playoffs and getting there and pitching, obviously.

“This guy is totally prepared for this moment.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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