NEW YORK (AP) — Everything went so well Thursday night for the Chicago Cubs that free-swinger Javier Baez even drew a walk.
“We forgot to get the ball,” manager Joe Maddon said in jest. “Not for him. For me.”
Jose Quintana pitched six shutout innings, Ben Zobrist hit a two-run homer and Chicago beat the banged-up New York Mets 5-1 in the opener of a four-game series.
Zobrist also doubled and singled in the leadoff spot as the Cubs won for the fourth time in five games. Chicago improved to 2-8 at Citi Field since the 2015 NL Championship Series.
An inconsistent Quintana (6-4) continued his run of strong starts following poor ones. The left-hander allowed three hits and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third when he threw a called third strike past Jose Bautista and retired cleanup man Michael Conforto on a grounder.
“He has that good look, made the pitches when he had to. Six solid there was big,” Maddon said.
Quintana struck out six , walked two and set down his last 11 batters on a foggy, misty night in Queens. Brandon Morrow, the fourth Chicago reliever, needed only two pitches to earn his 13th save in 14 tries. With two runners aboard, he retired Amed Rosario to finish the four-hitter.
Brandon Nimmo hit his career-high sixth home run for the Mets, off Brian Duensing.
“We pitched everybody who’s available,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “They kept us in the game.”
New York got four scoreless innings from Seth Lugo in his first start of the season. Lugo, who has made 20 relief appearances, pitched in place of injured Noah Syndergaard.
“I could tell my legs were getting a little tired. These next few days I’ll really focus on some endurance stuff to get used to throwing that much in an outing,” said Lugo, who won a rotation spot in spring training before an early season rainout bumped him to the bullpen. “I’ve always been a starter. I’m a lot more comfortable starting. It was nice out there tonight.”
Struggling against lefty pitchers all season, the Mets (27-27) have lost eight of 11 since a four-game winning streak.
“It’s a new month tomorrow,” Conforto said. “A new start and hopefully we start to get some guys who are hurt back also here soon.”
Zobrist went deep against Hansel Robles (2-2) with two outs in the fifth.
Chicago caught a break earlier in the inning when Kyle Schwarber’s foul popup dropped outside third base because New York’s infield was shifted to the right side. Schwarber walked and then scored in front of Zobrist.
Baez doubled with two outs in the sixth and scored on Schwarber’s single. Zobrist’s double in the seventh set up Jason Heyward’s RBI groundout. Willson Contreras added a sacrifice fly in the ninth — just before Baez drew his first unintentional walk in 183 plate appearances since April 7.
“Yes! I walked, yes!” said Baez, who began the day tied for the NL lead with 43 RBIs. “That ball actually almost hit me. That’s why I walked.”
TALK IT OVER
Maddon received a pregame visit from Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, and the two chatted about Anthony Rizzo’s slide that upended Pittsburgh catcher Elias Diaz at home plate Monday, breaking up a potential double play. The play angered the Pirates, and Torre informed both teams Tuesday that Rizzo should have been called for interference — but Maddon still disagreed. “Nothing new. We just talked about what had transpired,” Maddon said. “Rearview mirror kind of stuff, and it’s time to move on. … He encourages me to continue to say what I think, which I really appreciate.”
Mets captain David Wright played catch for the first time after a long period of rest and rehab.
“Day One,” he said. “Long way to go. Certainly have to be patient, but we’re going to ramp it up as quickly as I can to test it out.”
Wright, who has spinal stenosis, hasn’t played in the majors for a little more than two years but the All-Star third baseman still hopes to overcome several setbacks and make a comeback from debilitating back, neck and shoulder injuries.
“I’ve been down this road enough to know that you never really know what tomorrow brings. It was nice to get out there today,” he said. “I wouldn’t be wasting my time playing a meaningless game of catch if I wasn’t hoping that I could give it another go.”
Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) plans to begin a throwing program this weekend or early next week, depending on how he feels.
Mets: LHP Steven Matz (mild finger strain) felt good playing catch and intends to throw a bullpen Friday. If all goes well, he could make his next scheduled start Sunday without missing a turn. … Syndergaard, on the 10-day disabled list with a strained ligament in his right index finger, said he’ll probably miss one or two starts. … 3B Todd Frazier (strained left hamstring) played 5½ innings in a rehab game with Triple-A Las Vegas. He went 1 for 3 with an RBI. … RHP Anthony Swarzak (strained left oblique) is set to pitch an inning for Las Vegas on Friday. His final rehab outing is expected to be Sunday, according to Callaway. … Sandy Alderson said he’s “a little surprised” by how long it’s taking slugger Yoenis Cespedes to come back from his strained right hip flexor, an injury the GM said is “somewhat chronic.”
Cubs RHP Tyler Chatwood (3-4, 4.10 ERA) pitches Friday night against RHP Zack Wheeler (2-4, 5.40). Chatwood has lasted only 2 2/3 innings in each of his last two starts. He’s walked 45 batters and struck out 44 this season. Wheeler was hammered by Chicago for eight earned runs in 1 2/3 innings last June, the shortest outing of his career.