CHICAGO – While Cubs ace Jon Lester has been away, the rest of the rotation has played – and played well.
Picking up most of the slack during Lester’s time on the injured list have been fellow lefties Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana.
Hamels starts Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Quintana showed the way Tuesday night by working seven innings of four-hit, two-run ball as the Cubs scored a 7-2 victory over L.A. at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs improved to 11-10, marking the first time they have been over .500 since they won the season opener at Texas.
Quintana has been solid his past three starts, all since Lester went on the IL on April 9.
In each of those three starts, Quintana worked seven innings. He has an ERA of 0.86 in that time, having given up 14 hits and two earned runs. For the season, he improved to 3-1 and lowered his ERA from 3.43 to 3.21.
Since Lester has been out, the rest of the rotation has turned in seven quality starts.
“They definitely feed off one another,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Our starting pitching is a big reason we’ve done so much better recently. That’s carried over to the bullpen, also. This game’s so strange sometimes, where trends among the group seem to continue, whether you’re hitting well, you all hit well. And if you’re not, nobody does. If you’re pitching well, nobody does, and vice versa. You start making dumb mistakes on defense, and that become contagious, too.
“You just want to play that high-energy positive game every night. You’re looking for that positive roll.”
The Cubs got themselves onto a positive roll quickly against Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda by sending nine batters to the plate in the first inning and scoring four runs. The big hit was a two-out, bases-loaded double by Willson Contreras.
Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the second. Javy Baez didn’t figure into the scoring that inning, but he did make more magic on the bases. He bounced a ball toward first base and deked out David Freeze to elude the tag for an infield single.
Baez added a solo home run in the seventh. It was his seventh homer of the season.
Quintana wound up throwing 114 pitches. He worked out of trouble in the top of the seventh to strand a pair of runners. Steve Cishek came on in the eighth and gave up a pair of one-out singles before Maddon called on Kyle Ryan. Corey Seager’s single to right loaded the bases, but Ryan got a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat.
“The way I describe it, from Day 1 till now, the game on the field has been pretty similar from the first game in Texas to now,” Maddon said. “The thing that has changed, the most noticeable difference, has been the starting pitching. Of course, the bullpen has settled in a bit. I like the way we’re trending.”