In his debut for the Winston-Salem Dash, former Chicago Cubs top prospect Eloy Jimenez hit a two-out, two-RBI, game-winning single to beat the Cubs’ Minor League-affiliated Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Notching the game-winning hit in your first game on a new team, which also happens to come against your old team, is one hell of a start.
And yet … it pales in comparison to the Cubs’ debut of Jose Quintana this Sunday: 7.0 IP, 3H, 0ER, 0BB, 12Ks. Oh baby.
Obviously, the “winners” of this trade are not going to be decided by either of these players’ debut games (or even seasons, for that matter), but kicking things off on the right foot sure doesn’t hurt, and that’s just what Quintana did.
But before we dive deeper into the particulars of his first start with the Cubs, you should check out the highlights from yesterday here at MLB.com, or catch all of his 12 strikeouts in 12 seconds:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 16, 2017
According to the Chicago Sun Times, those 12 strikeouts, which came one game after he notched 10 Ks for the Sox before the break, make him just the second pitcher in baseball history to record back-to-back games with 10+Ks for different teams. The other pitcher is Randy Johnson. Not bad company, eh?
Indeed, Quintana, who not only hasn’t been much of a strikeout artist for his career, but has also been a bit more wild than usual this season, has now recorded 27 strikeouts to just four walks in his past three games alone. It won’t surprise you, then, to learn that his season strikeout rate has crept up to 25.9% – which is tops on the Cubs, and would be 10th in the National League (incidentally knocking Jon Lester out of the top ten), and 15th best overall in MLB.
And although his start in Baltimore was Quintana’s second best of the season by game score (88), it was far from a fluke. Over his past eight starts, dating back to June 6, Quintana’s strikeout rate ballooned up to 30.2 K%, while his walk rate has settled at a just-above-average 8.6%. And, of course, his 2.30 ERA, 2.84 FIP, .202 batting average against, and 52 ERA- during that stretch are something else entirely.
But despite the recent streak of success, yesterday’s start really caught Joe Maddon and the rest of the club’s attention.
“It can really be a big boon to us. There’s no question,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Everybody else saw, all the other starters saw. They saw us grab a lead and he pitched really well with a lead. There’s no messing around. There’s no walks, there’s no bad counts. He made them put the ball in play and he’s punching guys out.”
While a handful of players checked in with Sharma for some Quintana’ praise (be sure to check out his piece), the comments from Willson Contreras please me the most.
According to the Cubs’ young catcher, the battery had a plan, stuck with it, and executed it to perfection. And then later, he mentioned that the two of them “were on the same page,” the whole day and hardly wasted any time. I know this post is meant to focus on Quintana’s great start, but the prospect of those two working well together really bodes well for the next 3.5 years.
But back to those particulars.
Thanks to just three three-ball counts on the day, Quintana was pretty efficient in this one. All together, he needed just 100 pitches to complete seven innings, of which 67 fell in for strikes.
But here’s the crazy part: Quintana induced 21(!) whiffs on the day, which is – by far – the most of his season. And, in case you were wondering, it was his curveball (9) and fastball (9) that were doing the majority of the damage.
If he is slowly becoming more of a strikeout artist as he ages, Quintana’s “reputation” around the league might quickly move from solid #2 to “ace” before you know it. His season numbers are still not where you’d like them to be, but they are DEFINITELY moving in the right direction and have been for some time now.
There’s no question, the Cubs landed themselves one hell of a pitcher.