Jose Quintana K’s 12 in debut after trade as Cubs sweep Orioles

It might be premature to call the trade for Jose Quintana a complete success already. But if Sunday is any indication, the Chicago Cubs have found a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Quintana was outstanding in striking out 12 Baltimore Orioles over seven innings while surrendering only three hits without issuing a walk. It propelled the Cubs to an 8-0 win and a series sweep.

“It really could be a big boon to us,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the win. “All the other starters saw it. We grabbed a lead, and then he pitched really well with that lead. There was no messing around with it. There were no walks, no bad counts. He did everything really well.”

Quintana had movement on all his pitches, especially his curveball. The 12 strikeouts were one off his career high and, combined with his 10 strikeouts in his previous start for the Chicago White Sox before the trade, he joined Randy Johnson as the only pitchers since 1900 to record double-digit strikeouts for two different teams within the same season, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

“I just tried to hit my spots,” the low-key Quintana said. “This one is special for me. First one with the Cubs. I’m really happy.”

The Cubs are happy, too. After giving up two highly touted prospects for Quintana, a lot is riding on his left arm. By all measures, the defending champions underachieved in the first half but have come out on fire since the All-Star break, outscoring the Orioles 27-11 in the three games.

“I think we are back,” Cubs catcher Willson Contreras declared. “We are back to where we were last year.”

Contreras was 8-for-14 in the series, including his first four-hit game of his career, while using teammate Victor Caratini’s bats.

“I didn’t like the feel of mine,” he said.

Contreras was also the beneficiary behind the plate of Quintana’s great performance.

“We knew that he could pitch pretty good, but today was his day,” Contreras said. “After the game, I thanked him.”

Quintana was equally grateful for the run support, as it usually didn’t come for him with his old team. In fact, according to Elias research, he ranked last in the American League since 2013 in run support for pitchers with at least 100 starts. Ironically, before this weekend, the Cubs rarely provided run support for their pitchers this season, as well. Their offense has struggled all year. Perhaps things are changing, as the team moved back above .500 for the first time this month.

“Every day is a good chance to take a W,” Quintana said of the world champions. “I want to be part of that. I’m excited.”

He’s already a big part of it, as he announced his arrival to the Cubs in dramatic fashion on Sunday. He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning.

“I liked his routine on the mound,” Maddon said. “Did you notice the big breath and then the delivery begins after that? Tremendous focus per pitch. That’s what I took away from it.”

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