The good news is that before any gameplay on June 28th, the Chicago Cubs are sitting in first place in the National League Central division, having looked the part of a divisional winner so far as the last few days of June come to a close.
The bad news? They only sit one game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers and three games ahead of the middling St. Louis Cardinals, which shows how tightly contested this divisional race has been up to this point, and how it will only grow tighter as the season progresses on.
Having been in a dogfight that required an extra game to settle the division in 2018, the Cubs and Brewers are all too familiar with each other, and the 2019 season looks to be no different. Clawing back and forth for control of the division, it is now the Cubs who are in the driver’s seat and looking to run away with some sort of lead before the All-Star break happens.
Being able to stay in first place, especially in how difficult their division is looking to win this year, is going to be very tough down the stretch, but the Cubbies have a few pieces that absolutely push them to victory. Holding an upper hand on pitching, specifically their starting rotation, that looks to be their biggest calling card in one-upping any divisional foes.
Of their starters, left-hander Jose Quintana looks to be the one who has shouldered most of the load so far this season and looks very comfortable doing it, albeit the results have not panned out in a favorable way. Even though that is the pitcher whom the Cubs put on the mound in their do or die game 163 last season, which they lost, Quintana is the team’s ace and should be put in those situations every single time they present themselves.
Others, like Jon Lester and Yu Darvish, were counted on as the season began, but mixed results have occurred. Lester has pitched alright this year (7-5, 3.83 ERA) and has only received a no-decision in three of his 15 starts.
On the other hand, Darvish has been an absolute disaster for the Cubs, as his long-term deal is looking equaling as appalling as the one that the team signed outfielder Jason Heyward to, which is never a good thing. Comparing two awful, long and big-money contracts together spells trouble for most franchises, although the Cubs have learned to deal with that money aspect and give their younger, more controllable and cheaper players the playing time that they deserve and have earned.
For Quintana, his 2019 campaign looks far less impressive than most were hoping for, as his 4-7 record across 16 games and 15 starts has been anything but what the doctor ordered. Combine those numbers with a 4.50 ERA, 12 home runs allowed and 29 walks doled out, and Quintana has not even come close to his dominant self for the Cubs.
With the numerical second half of the season just getting underway in these next few games, the Cubs have a lot of time ahead of them, which is hopefully when Quintana’s level of pitching will get back to what he is known for being, a shutdown starter.
The Cubs’ playoff hopes and divisional-championship hopes all rest on the shoulders of Quintana, as they should, seeing as how he is the team’s ace. Even though he is not pitching like a number one starting pitcher is supposed to pitch, Quintana’s stuff is there, and he has the ability to become a second-half ace for this team when they so desperately need one.