Quintana, defense strong as Cubs hold off Padres
Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana said he was able to "turn the page" from his rough outing last weekend in St. Louis.
That proved to be an apt description of the entire afternoon Friday for the Cubs, who turned the page from Thursday night's lackluster loss to the San Diego Padres to survive for a 5-4 victory.
The Padres rallied for 2 runs in the ninth against Pedro Strop, who allowed the first three batters to reach base before getting out of the trouble and saving the game for Quintana.
There was so much going on Friday that we'll have to divide this tome into three books.
The Book of Quintana:
The lefty was coming off an outing last Saturday in which he allowed 6 runs in the first inning against the Cardinals in a 6-2 loss.
Against the Padres, Quintana (10-7) threw his fastball "with conviction," according to manager Joe Maddon, and erased the memory of St. Louis with 6 innings of 4-hit, 1-run ball while walking none and striking out six. That run came on a fourth-inning homer by former Cubs farmhand Christian Villanueva.
"I tried to turn the page right away and be focused on this next start I had ahead," Quintana said. "Today I felt really good. My command was better. I tried to get my team in pretty good position."
The Book of Baez:
The Javier Baez story is just beginning to be written, and three letters you may need are M-V-P.
Baez added to his legend Friday by hitting his 23rd home run of the season, tying his career best, set last year. Friday's homer came in the second inning and gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Baez legged out a triple in the eighth inning and scored an important insurance run.
In the field, he threw home to nail Travis Jankowski at home plate from second base in the eighth.
For two days, Maddon has talked about Baez being a viable candidate to win the National League Most Valuable Player award.
"The batting average definitely a well-kept secret," Maddon said. "He's hitting fourth. He leads the league in RBIs still. Homers are good. He's using the whole field."
Baez's batting line is .299/.333/.580 with the 23 homers and an NL-leading 84 RBI at the start of Friday evening's play. The Rockies' Nolan Arenado may have something to say about the MVP.
For his part, Baez would rather not talk about that.
"It makes me nervous, to be honest," he said. "Like I've said, I don't want to play with numbers. We'll see at the end. We'll see in September. When we get to September, it's going to be about playoffs. We'll see when the numbers come up. We'll see in the off-season what I did for this season."
The book of Rizzo:
Few people may have expected it to last this long, but first baseman Anthony Rizzo continues to thrive in the leadoff spot.
He hit his 16th homer of the season in the seventh inning, a high drive against the wind to right field. He also singled twice. Rizzo has reached base in eight straight games and has 4 homers and 8 RBI in that stretch. His homer was the 181st as a Cub, moving him into a tie for 11th place in team history with Alfonso Soriano.
Maddon said he is inclined to leave Rizzo in the top spot, where he placed him July 13.
"I would think about moving him," the manager said. "Absolutely, yeah. Right now, I still like the way it looks. The back part of the game is really intriguing to me. When you say leadoff, he does it as the first hitter of the game. I get that. But I think to this point, we've benefited in the latter part of the game by him being there."
Rizzo is rolling with it.
"It's fun," he said. "I have fun. It's just what it is. I think whatever's best for the team is what's best. I'm obviously doing well and happy about that. Being a leadoff hitter, it's fun."
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