Quintana embracing stakes, postseason stage

Quintana embracing stakes, postseason stage

CHICAGO -- It didn't take Joe Maddon long to realize Jose Quintana was ready for his turn on the postseason stage.

Maddon's first conversation with Quintana came shortly after the Cubs acquired the veteran left-hander in a blockbuster cross-town deal with the White Sox during the All-Star break. Almost immediately, Maddon said, Quintana brought up the idea of pitching in the playoffs for the first time.

Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CHC 3, WSH 0 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 7 WSH 6, CHC 3 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 9 CHC 2, WSH 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 11 WSH 5, CHC 0 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 12 CHC 9, WSH 8 WATCH

"He's wanted to be this guy," Maddon said.

He will be today at Wrigley Field as he makes his postseason debut against Nationals ace Max Scherzer in Game 3 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, which is tied at 1-1.

It's not as if Quintana is lacking experience. The 28-year-old left-hander's track record appealed to the Cubs as they sought to upgrade their rotation for the second half of this season and the next three years that Quintana remains under contractual control.

The Cubs' deal for Quintana not only solidified their starting staff heading into next season as they face the potential losses of Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, but it also thrust the perennially underrated Quintana onto a national stage, and he will stand at the center of it on Monday.

But the six-year veteran has never thrown a pitch in the postseason. Until July 13, Quintana had spent his entire Major League career with the White Sox. He only played for one winning team before this: the 2012 White Sox club that went 85-77 and fell short of the playoffs.

"It's a huge game for me. I think it's a huge opportunity, too," Quintana said. "For the first time, you know, I'm really excited to get this opportunity, and I appreciate that."

Maddon's lone concern is that Quintana will be overly amped up by the unfamiliar atmosphere. Quintana admitted it was a fair question, but he's not weighed down by the pressure of pitching in such a pivotal game.

Maddon on starting Quintana

"I just go try and get focused, pitch by pitch. You know, control my emotions every time," Quintana said. "I think that's the huge part for me, especially when it's my first time here."

But as far as Maddon is concerned, Monday will not be Quintana's introduction to the postseason. That came against the Brewers two weeks ago, when Quintana threw a three-hit, 10-strikeout shutout that all but officially ended the NL Central race. That, Maddon said, was all he needed to see from Quintana.

"God, he had a great look," Maddon said. "We're all into reading people's faces and their vibe and their energy and all that stuff -- and he had it. He has it."

The cost to acquire Quintana was significant, as one might expect for a pitcher who averaged 204 innings per season with a 3.35 ERA from 2013-16. The Cubs parted with prospects Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Bryant Flete and Matt Rose to deliver Quintana from the South Side to the North Side of Chicago.

After uneven returns in July and August, the Cubs won all five of Quintana's starts in September, including the dominant outing vs. Milwaukee -- his second career shutout -- that showed Maddon that Quintana is ready for October.

"I have all the faith in the world in this guy," Maddon said. "He is so sincere. His work is so good. He's prepped. He's ready to go every time he plays."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.