NL Wild Card: Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta blank Pittsburgh Pirates
By Jake Misener
Jake Arrieta tossed a complete-game shutout to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game Wednesday night.
The effort gives Chicago its first postseason series win in a dozen years and made Arrieta the first pitcher in big league history to toss a nine-inning shutout with 11 or more strikeouts and zero base-on-balls.
Despite being viewed, by many, as the underdog in the showdown between two NL Central clubs, the Cubs came out swinging early when Kyle Schwarber took a pitch from Pirates starter Gerrit Cole and deposited it down the left-field line in the top of the first, scoring Dexter Fowler and giving Chicago a 1-0 edge.
It was Schwarber who broke things wide open in the third, taking Cole deep – blasting a two-run shot into the Allegheny River, extending the Chicago lead to 3-0. The rookie drove in three runs – but was not to be outdone by Fowler, who set the pace for the Cubs’ offense all night-long.
In the top of the fifth, Fowler added a homer of his own, accounting for the fourth – and final – Cubs run of the night. Cole lasted just five innings and was charged with four earned on with six hits, walking one and striking out four.
Two innings later, tensions reached a boiling point. After Arrieta hit a pair of Pirates hitters earlier in the night, Pittsburgh reliever Tony Watson driller the Cubs right-hander, which drew a stare from Arrieta and cleared the benches.
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Before the dust settled, Sean Rodriguez let a punch fly and was ultimately ejected for his part in the altercation, which, if you ask me, was bush league. Arrieta’s two hit batsmen were accidents; but it was clear that Watson was looking to send a message with the pitch.
The Cy Young candidate was dominant yet-again, extending his scoreless innings streak to 31 frames stretching back to the regular season – sending Chicago to a National League Division Series matchup with their longtime foe, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fowler and Schwarber accounted for five of the Cubs’ seven hits and Chicago helped road teams since the Wild Card expansion move to 6-2. Pittsburgh has now lost the NL Wild Card Game at home in each of the past two seasons – failing to score in either contest.
Chicago will send Jon Lester to the hill on Friday afternoon at Busch Stadium in Game One of the National League Division Series. He will be opposed by veteran right-hander John Lackey.
First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. CT.