|Cubs' Quintana to face Pirates looking for sweep|
Jose Quintana will go for a career-high 14th victory when the Chicago Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed an impressive career on both sides of town for the Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, with whom he pitched from his 2012 debut until he was traded during the 2017 season. But Quintana has been plagued by weak run support for the bulk of his career, and he topped out with 13 wins in 2016 and 2018.
Now, Quintana (13-8, 4.15 ERA) can add to his victory total in the series finale against the lowly Pirates.
Chicago (80-68) has won back-to-back games against Pittsburgh (65-84) and is looking to sweep the three-game series. The Cubs trail the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central division by three games and currently hold the NL's second wild card by a scant one game over the Milwaukee Brewers with two weeks remaining.
A surprise arrival by a young infielder has helped the Cubs' cause.
Rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in Saturday's 14-1 rout of the Pirates. He is hitting .417 (10-for-24) with two homers and 11 RBIs in six games since Chicago promoted him from the minors.
"We were in a position in a pennant race we have to get the best available player up," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein recently told reporters. "Nico finished the year with a lot of things going his way, and we decided given his mental makeup he could handle it, even if it was a lot earlier than we thought, because he's such a thoughtful kid."
The 22-year-old Hoerner said he is enjoying his first taste of the big leagues.
"It's not what I was expecting to do this week," he said. "But I definitely felt I was ready for it, just by preparing all year long."
The Pirates will counter with veteran right-hander Trevor Williams (7-6, 5.21), who is seeking his first victory this month. He did not earn a decision in his last outing as he gave up four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings against the San Francisco Giants.
In 10 career games (eight starts) against the Cubs, Williams is 3-5 with a 5.29 ERA. He has walked 22 and struck out 34 in 47 2/3 innings.
By comparison, Quintana is 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in nine career starts against the Pirates. He has walked eight and fanned 57 in 55 innings.
Williams recently was named the Pirates' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the top player in the game for sportsmanship, community involvement and team contribution.
The nomination hit home for Williams since he plays for the same franchise where Clemente shined from 1955 until 1972.
"He understood the responsibility he had as a major league baseball player to use his platform to change the world," Williams posted on his Twitter account. "I strive to emulate the legacy that he left within baseball, Pittsburgh, and the world."
--Field Level Media