Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta looked impressive pitching against Oakland on Saturday, going eight innings and giving up just three hits.
The Chicago Cubs won 4-0, and Arrieta improved to 13-5 for the year.
More importantly, it showed that Arrieta can pitch back to his pre-slump form, where he mowed down hitters in practically every game he started. The win was the first for Arrieta in over a month.
He was 0-3 in his previous five starts and 1-4 since ending a 20 game decision win streak that began in the second half of last season.
If the Cubs want to contend for a World Series, they will need to have Arrieta pitch at or near the level he pitched at the start of the season.
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After the game yesterday, Arrieta (13-5, 2.59 ERA) sounded optimistic. “Emphasis on sinking the ball down, middle of the strike zone and forcing action early on.” He said he was close to pitching at the level he was early in the season.
The Cubs need to have an ‘ace’ on their staff. A pitcher they know who can go out and stop a team. Their rotation is strong. With a spot-on Arrieta, it becomes formidable.
A closer look reveals that Arrieta trails John Lackey by just one run in innings pitched to lead the staff. Lackey has 143 2/3 innings pitched and Arrieta has 142. Lackey also leads the pitching staff in strikeouts with 145 with Arrieta a close second at 143.
Jon Lester is having a fine year with a 12-4 record and an impressive 2.93 ERA. The surprise of the staff has to be the play of Kyle Hendricks who is 10-7 with the second best ERA at 2.22 in the league. Jason Hammel pitches well at Wrigley and upped his record to 11-5 with a 3.07 ERA.
With Arrieta back in form, the Cubs will have a playoff ready pitching staff. Of course, let’s not forget the new addition of reliever Aroldis Chapman, with the blazing fastball of 104 mph.
Chapman makes the pitching staff look kind of dangerous. With a sharp Arrieta and the threat of Chapman in the bullpen, the pitching looks strong.
Chicago is on a six-game win streak and has been playing excellent baseball since the team returned from the All-Star break. Their team slump, when the Cubs went 1-9 in late June-early July seems like it happened a long team ago. Arrieta said Saturday, “We’re firing on all cylinders now.” – via the Chicago Tribune.
Perhaps it is too early to say, but it appears the Cubs are going to make the playoffs. They have a double-digit lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.
If Arrieta continues to pitch well, they will be a strong contender this post-season.