Quintana prepared for biggest start of career

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In analyzing that start, Quintana noticed that Los Angeles’ hitters generally waited him out, taking enough pitches early in counts to create a bona fide trend. Quintana feels he can take advantage of the Dodgers’ passiveness Thursday in Game 5 of the NLCS presented by Camping World, with the Cubs looking to stave off elimination for a second straight night.

“That’s what I learned,” Quintana said. “I want to get another chance against this team.”

Thanks to the Cubs’ 3-2 Game 4 win at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, Quintana will get his wish on the most significant stage of his life. Coming into October, the left-hander had never pitched in the playoffs. His previous big-game experience was limited to one strong start for Team Colombia in the World Baseball Classic.

Compare that to the Dodgers’ Game 5 starter, Clayton Kershaw, who boasts one of the longest playoff resumes in baseball. It has been far from a smooth ride for Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner who is just 5-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 20 postseason outings — and who admitted, “We’re not unbeatable” when asked Wednesday about the Dodgers’ accomplishments.

The Cubs proved as much in Game 4. And they feel Quintana, who went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 regular-season starts after the Cubs acquired him in July, is the ideal man to have on the mound for Game 5. He misses bats, with 98 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings as a Cub. He also has not allowed a home run in his last five outings, three of them in the postseason.

“Q’s as prepared as any starter I’ve ever seen,” Game 4 winner Jake Arrieta said. “This guy has been incredible for us. He can pitch in any situation.”

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“That guy’s been pretty dang good for us and I know he’s going to go out there and battle for us, that’s for sure,” added outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “We’re really looking forward to having him out there.”

Ideally, for as long as possible. Unlike the Dodgers, who are rich enough in bullpen arms that they can afford a short start every now and then, Cubs manager Joe Maddon noted that his team is far more effective when its starters pitch deep into games.

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That’s true whether they are regular-season games or early-round playoff contests or — in this case — must-win elimination games.

“I’ve been around a lot of things this year,” Quintana said. “I started a little early, with the WBC, and too many things happened to me this year. I heard a lot about trade rumors, everything. But I grew up and learned how special this position is for me, my first time. And I get another chance tomorrow to continue to do my job, and continue to get this awesome experience.”

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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