Daily Southtown

Quintana tagged for three homers

Zobrist, Maddon ejected; offense stays stagnant in shutout

- By Mark Gonzales

After Ben Zobrist’s planned discussion was met with resistance by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, the Cubs veteran second baseman responded Tuesday with a pointed parting shot that resulted in the first ejection of his 13-year career.

“I just basically said that’s why we want an electronic strike zone,” Zobrist said after getting tossed after the eighth inning ended with him standing on deck. “And that’s what obviously got me tossed.”

Two innings earlier, manager Joe Maddon was ejected by Cuzzi after defending Zobrist following a called third strike.

Those two developmen­ts overshadow­ed a lifeless offense that enabled the Brewers to cruise to a 7-0 victory and cut the Cubs’ deficit to two games in the National League Central.

The Cubs have scored just 11 runs in their past five games, and only a grand slam by David Bote in Sunday’s dramatic 4-3 win over the Nationals prevented them from being blanked three times during that span.

A pregame hitters’ meeting didn’t help, as they managed just three hits in seven innings off Jhoulys Chacin, whose effective use of his slider to the lower corners of the plate resulted in 10 strikeouts and frustrated the hitters when they weren’t staring or snapping at Cuzzi.

“We’re also capable of hitting the off-speed pitches too,” said Maddon, referring to a question regarding the Cubs’ ability to broaden their reputation as just a good fastball-hitting team. “Just the backdoor slider is kind of devastatin­g. You just got to stay back, use middle of the field. Lefties got to look to hit the backdoor (slider) to the middle, opposite field. With righties, they need to hit the breaking ball the other way.

“There’s stuff to work through. We’ve been there before.”

But with no return date set for slugger Kris Bryant, the Cubs (68-50) must recapture the art of hitting to all fields that enabled them to vault past the Brewers (68-54) for first place last month.

The usually patient Cubs offense was retired on six pitches in the fourth by Chacin, who is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 17 strikeouts in two starts against the Cubs this season.

The bottom of the batting order has been largely stagnant shortly after Maddon elected to bat the starting pitcher eighth.

Former cleanup hitterturn­ed-leadoff man Anthony Rizzo has just five at-bats with runners in scoring position this month.

“There’s nothing to defend,” Maddon said. “We got to reorganize our strike zone, just the whole field. The effort is there.

“We got to get our offensive mojo back.”

Any carryover from Sunday’s win was quickly detonated as left-hander Jose Quintana allowed home runs to Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun in the first. Braun added a two-run shot in the third.

That left the Cubs with a high level of frustratio­n that reached a zenith when Zobrist, who is batting .309 with 11 extra base hits in his last 13 games, decided to have a final word after claiming Cuzzi threatened him with an ejection if he continued to argue his called third strike in the sixth.

“At some level, because we’re not allowed to have a conversati­on with them, that’s the only way we can say our peace,” said Zobrist, who was angrier after a game-ending called third strike by Mark Wegner against the Diamondbac­ks on Aug. 12, 2017.

“This one I knew wasn’t on the plate,” Zobrist said. “I didn’t have to look at the video.”

 ?? BRIAN CASSELLA/CHICAGO TRIBUNE ?? Turn to Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana delivers to the Brewers during the first inning Tuesday.
BRIAN CASSELLA/CHICAGO TRIBUNE Turn to Cubs starting pitcher Jose Quintana delivers to the Brewers during the first inning Tuesday.

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