Quintana's 3-hit shutout builds confidence

Cubs lefty preps for first shot at postseason with big win over Brewers

Quintana's 3-hit shutout builds confidence

MILWAUKEE -- Jose Quintana has never pitched in the postseason, so he's not exactly sure how it feels. On Sunday, he tuned up perfectly for the playoffs.

Quintana threw a three-hit shutout, the second shutout of his career, and helped the Cubs win the series with a 5-0 victory over the Brewers. The lefty struck out 10 and has reached 200 K's in a single season for the first time in his career.

With the win, the Cubs' magic number to clinch the Central Division is two, and they can do so as early as Tuesday night in St. Louis.

"Once he got over here, he was jacked up about having the chance to play in the playoffs," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Quintana. "Games like that can be kind of career altering for a pitcher. When you pitch a complete-game shutout on the road under these circumstances, that definitely does something for your interior. It definitely fluffs it up a little bit."

Quintana's three-hit shutout

Quintana had thrown an efficient 109 pitches through eight innings, needing just six pitches to retire the side in the eighth.

"When I got to the bottom of the eighth, Joe gave me the confidence to go out there [for the ninth]," Quintana said. "It's huge when you get a shutout game. It's not easy to do. I'm really happy, especially when you face a lineup like that.

"When I walked back to the dugout, [Maddon] said, 'Man, you're back again,'" Quintana said of the brief conversation. "I said, 'All right.'

"I tried to get quick outs," he said. "Today I got quick outs after the second time I saw the lineup. They are real aggressive."

Quintana on pitching a shutout

It was the first shutout by a Cubs pitcher since Kyle Hendricks did so on Aug. 1, 2016, against the Marlins, and only the second complete game by a Chicago starter this season.

"'Q,' to me, he's a special kid," Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said. "He comes to the ballpark ready every single day, even if he's not pitching. He prepares himself, he asks a lot. Today was one of the biggest days of his career. We had a plan and he executed every pitch we wanted to."

It was a frustrating day for the Brewers.

"He was making good pitches in, and as righties, we're not really looking in, we're looking away," Milwaukee's Keon Broxton said. "The changeup, I think we saw pretty good as a unit, but he was flipping a curveball in now and then, which was a good pitch for him. He just hit his spots, man."

Quintana finishes the shutout

There was no real discussion about Quintana not finishing the game. Reliever Pedro Strop did warm up a couple of times, but that was it.

"Just from the beginning, you could see he wanted to do something like that today," Maddon said of Quintana. "He kept getting better [as the game progressed], kept hitting his spots."

In his Cubs debut on July 15 against the Orioles, Quintana struck out 12 over seven scoreless innings and got the win. He's now 7-3 with a 3.50 ERA with the Cubs.

Did it feel like a playoff game on Sunday?

"I think so -- I don't know yet, because I haven't been -- but this series was huge," Quintana said. "I'm just trying to help my team. It's really special when you get the opportunity. I have a huge opportunity here."

"These were playoff games," Contreras said of the Cubs-Brewers series. "They're not easy."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.