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Jose Quintana has a career-high 14 strikeouts

Jose Quintana has a career-high 14 strikeouts

Paul Casella

PHILADELPHIA — It was clear after one inning on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park that José Quintana’s pitch count would likely become an issue for the left-hander. Equally as obvious, however, was the fact that Quintana had his best stuff working.
That combination led to something that had been

PHILADELPHIA — It was clear after one inning on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park that José Quintana‘s pitch count would likely become an issue for the left-hander. Equally as obvious, however, was the fact that Quintana had his best stuff working.

That combination led to something that had been done just one other time in Cubs history.

Box score

The left-hander struck out three batters in a 28-pitch first inning — including getting Bryce Harper looking to cap off an 11-pitch battle — on his way to racking up a career-high 14 strikeouts in Chicago’s 4-2 loss against the Phillies. Quintana became just the second pitcher in Cubs history to strike out 14 batters while pitching six innings or fewer, joining Kerry Wood, who did so on April 27, 2001, against the Giants. Quintana’s 14 strikeouts also tied Jon Lester (July 29, 2015) for the most by a Cubs left-hander in any game over the last century.

“It was good,” Quintana said. “I felt really good out there. I had a career high in strikeouts — I knew I had a lot of strikeouts, but I didn’t know how many it was.”

While the three first-inning strikeouts set the tone for Quintana’s career night, the 11-pitch showdown with Harper ultimately led to his evening coming to an end after just six innings and 110 pitches of work.

“That first at-bat was difficult, and a lot of times it really sets a bad tone, but you’ve got to give Q credit for rebounding from that,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But without that at-bat, he probably would have pitched a solid seven [innings], which could have made a difference there at the end of the game. But Harper’s at-bat was tough.”

Following the 11-pitch strikeout, Quintana struck out Rhys Hoskins on five pitches before issuing a walk and plunking a batter to put two on with two outs in the opening frame. He escaped by getting Scott Kingery to swing through a 93 mph fastball — one of a season-high 16 swings and misses induced by Quintana.

“My pitch count was high, but I pulled away after that,” Quintana said. “I kept focusing on hitting my target. It was a really good battle. After that, I think I got through guys a little bit quicker to stay in the game longer. It was a good battle — and I was happy to win it after all that.”

The Phillies prevailed, however, after scraping across a pair of late runs against the Chicago bullpen.

“It was a lot of strikeouts,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “I will say this, though — it will get lost, but I like to point these at-bats out. The Harper at-bat to lead off the game, he saw 11 pitches. I looked up in the fifth inning and Quintana’s pitch count was starting to climb. I said to myself, ‘Part of the reason that’s happening is because what we needed in the first at-bat of the game is somebody who can see pitches and make a pitcher work.’ You don’t always see the fruits of that labor right away, but you tend to see it later in the game.”

While the climbing pitch count may have prevented Quintana from going deeper, it certainly didn’t seem to affect his arm. He struck out eight of the final 10 batters he faced, the two exceptions being a J.T. Realmuto solo home run followed immediately by a Jean Segura double in the fifth. Quintana punctuated his night by striking out the side in the sixth inning, finishing off each batter with a different pitch.

That was the theme of the night for the lefty, who forced five swings and misses with his breaking ball, four apiece with his changeup and four-seamer and another three with his sinker.

“He was so good,” Maddon said. “[Catcher] Jonathan [Lucroy] came back and was so impressed with all of his stuff tonight. He said something to me in about the fourth or fifth inning. It was that good. Everything was working — really good breaking ball, changeup was outstanding, fastball had the good carry.”

So what was working best for Quintana?

“Everything,” he said. “Changeup. Fastball command was good. Breaking ball to put it away. Everything, yeah.”

The strong outing continued a recent trend for Quintana, who has a 1.89 ERA over his last three starts. He’s tallied 26 strikeouts and just one walk during that span.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, two other trends continued in Tuesday’s series-opening loss. They were held to just two runs, limited by six innings of solid work from soft-throwing Phillies lefty Jason Vargas, as the Cubs fell to 4-11 in their last 15 games against left-handed starters. They also dropped to 23-36 on the road this season.

“We need to do better in these moments,” Maddon said of the offensive struggles. “We’re good enough to do that. Especially when you get a pitching performance like that — that’s a tough performance to not take advantage of.

“He deserved a much better fate.”

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.



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