Quintana, Darvish leading the way for Chicago Cubs' rotation

We have a few days before the Chicago Cubs come spinning (or sputtering) out of the turn and heading for home.

Raise your hand if you thought pitchers Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish would be horses 1 and 1A for the stretch run.

There is still time for nominal ace Jon Lester to get back into the race. The same goes for Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels, who opens a three-game series as the starter against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

But what Quintana in particular and Darvish to a slightly lesser degree have done in August has been eye-opening and just what the Cubs needed to keep themselves in the National League Central race.

Quintana tossed 7 scoreless innings Sunday night in the Little League Classic as the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He ran his season record to 11-7 with a 3.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.25. Quintana leads the Cubs with 142⅔ innings pitched and 14 quality starts.

What he has done in August is remarkable. In 26 innings, he has given up just 1 walk while striking out 33. He is 3-0 for the month with a 1.38 ERA and a WHIP of 0.77.

Darvish has been king of the no-decision this season as his 4-6 record indicates. He will start Wednesday night's game with a chance to keep pace with Quintana's August.

So far this month, Darvish has no walks and 27 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. He has a 2.50 ERA and a WHIP of 0.72.

The Cubs are going to have to get to October first, but suffice to say, Quintana and Darvish are going to make any playoff rotation decisions interesting and difficult for manager Joe Maddon.

Cubs option Bote:

With reliever Steve Cishek due to come off the injured list Tuesday, the Cubs on Monday optioned infielder David Bote to Class AAA Iowa. Bote has a line of .257/.352/.429 with 10 homers and 40 RBI. The good play and versatility of recently recalled infielder-outfielder Ian Happ made Bote expendable.

Bote is likely to be back when major-league rosters expand Sept. 1.

Spring schedule is out:

It's never too early to think spring, and with that, major-league teams announced their 2020 spring-training schedules Monday.

The Cubs will open their Cactus League season at their Sloan Park home in Mesa, Arizona, Feb. 22 against the Oakland Athletics. They'll finish March 23 against the San Diego Padres in Mesa.

The club's tentative 32-game schedule includes 17 games at Sloan Park and 15 Cactus League road games. Additional games may be added in the future.

The Cubs and White Sox play twice next spring - Friday, March 6, in Mesa and Friday, March 13, in Glendale.

Hot and cold on the road:

Cubs batter ran the gamut from hot to cold on their 4-6 road trip. Nicholas Castellanos paced the Cubs, going 13-for-40 (.325) with 5 home runs. Kris Bryant went 11-for-36 (.306) with 3 homers.

At the other end, Javier Baez was 6-for-34 (.176). He has not homered since hitting a pair Aug. 5 against Oakland at Wrigley Field.

Kyle Schwarber notched his 100th career home run on the trip, but overall he was 4-for-28 (.143). Jason Heyward homered Sunday to salvage a trip on which he went 5-for-27 (.185).

Battered Brewers:

While the Cubs and Giants get underway Tuesday, the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals opened a series Monday night in St. Louis. The Cubs and their fans will be hoping the two teams knock each other around.

It was an interesting weekend for the Brewers, who beat the Washington Nationals 15-14 in 14 innings Saturday and lost 16-8 Sunday, with the Nationals hitting 8 home runs.

Starting pitching has been an issue for the Brewers the past two seasons, and it will continue to be so for the rest of this year.

In Saturday's game, starter Jordan Lyles went 4 innings, giving up 7 hits and 5 runs. Sunday, it was Chase Anderson pitching 2⅓ innings and giving up 9 hits and 10 runs.

Saturday's wild game featured the winning and losing pitchers being named Guerra: Junior for the Brewers and Javy for the Nats.

Why it's past time for Cubs to give manager Maddon an extension

Castellanos good fit from start for Cubs

Cubs look to Little League Classic to cure road troubles

Scouting report: Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Yu Darvish throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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