Chicago Cubs inch closer to NL Central Division title with win over Milwaukee Brewers

By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 24, 2017 at 6:56 PM
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MILWAUKEE -- For three straight days, the Chicago Cubs battled the Milwaukee Brewers into extra innings, scrapping out two late victories.

Jose Quintana ensured extra innings would not be necessary on Sunday.

Quintana struck out 10 and pitched a three-hitter as the Cubs crept closer to clinching the NL Central Division title with a 5-0 victory over the Brewers in front of a sellout crowd of 42,212 at Miller Park.

"When you get a game like that out of your starter, under these circumstances, it's pretty awesome," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Quintana's last complete game shutout came on July 24, 2015 when he was pitching for the crosstown Chicago White Sox, who dealt him to the Cubs at the break as the North Siders tried to repeat their World Championship performance of a year ago.

The 28-year-old was excited to get a chance to play meaningful baseball in September for the first time in his 5 1/2-season career, but had taken a little bit of time to settle into his new surroundings.

"He's getting more comfortable here knowing everybody and that sense of belonging always matters," Maddon said. "You come into a group that's winning and has a chance to win again, sometimes you can try a little bit too hard. I think he's finally settled in. He's really comfortable with everybody. Give him credit. That's above and beyond."

Quintana (7-3) surpassed the 200-strikeout mark for the first time in his career and threw 116 pitches. It was his second career shutout.

"I felt really good out there," Quintana said. "I'm so happy to get this last game of this series. I know it was a huge game. My confidence was high. I was able to save the bullpen after the last three games."

The victory put Chicago 5 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers in the race for the division title. The Cubs can clinch it Monday with a victory at St. Louis, who now sit neck-and-neck with the Brewers in a chase of Colorado for the second National League wild-card spot.

"For the division, we have to win out and they have to lose out," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's obviously unlikely, but it is still not completely over."

Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson (11-4) allowed Chicago's first run on an RBI double by Kris Bryant in the fourth.

Willson Contreras beat out a single to open the seventh and Ben Zobrist sent Anderson's next offering into the right field stands for his 11th home run of the season, putting the Cubs ahead, 3-0.

After retiring Addison Russell, a walk to Jason Heyward brought Anderson's day to an end.

"It is a 1-0 game until the Zobrist homer," Counsell said. "It was shaping up to be the same game. Chase pitched very, very well. He made a mistake and a good hitter made him pay for it. It was trending to the same game until the sixth inning. You have to give them credit. A guy got a mistake and he hit it."

Wei-Chung Wang took over in the eighth, allowing a leadoff walk to Jon Jay before he was replaced by Carlos Torres, who walked Bryant.

Anthony Rizzo followed and ripped a 2-2 fastball to the gap in right, clearing the bases to make it a 5-0 game.

Quintana batted for himself in the eighth inning and came back out to work the ninth, having retired eight straight batters but with a pitch count of 109.

He only needed seven pitches to finish the job.

NOTES: Brewers C Manny Pina missed his third straight game Sunday because a sprained ligament in his next thumb. He'll be evaluated before the Brewers return to action Tuesday against the Reds. ... Players from both sides stood outside the dugouts during the traditional pregame playing of the national anthem but Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he would have no problem if any of his players chose to protest during the anthem. "I have no issues. I'm all into self-expression," he said. "If a player feels he needs to express himself in that manner, then so be it." ... Brewers CF Keon Broxton stole his 20th base of the season in the fifth inning and became the eighth player in franchise history to steal 20 bases and hit 20 home runs in one season. ... Chicago won the season series for the fourth straight year, taking 10 of the 19 meetings with the Brewers.

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