Chicago Cubs looking for series-clinching start from Jake Arrieta

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs need just one win to clinch a third-straight NLCS appearance. On Tuesday, they turn to right-hander Jake Arrieta needing a strong start.

The Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta takes the mound Tuesday afternoon against the Washington Nationals with questions looming both on and off the field. The 31-year-old righty’s future – and the fate of the 2017 Cubs, to a degree – is in his hands.

The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner hopes that this outing won’t be his last in a Cubs uniform. A win and the club heads back to the NLCS. A loss means a do-or-die Game 5 in D.C. later this week. What can fans expect from the soon-to-be free agent?

Arrieta owns a 5.48 career earned run average against the Nationals. That’s his highest ERA against any team he’s pitched 30+ innings against. Most notably, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon hit .286, .294 and .364 against him, respectively, in a cumulative 42 plate appearances. He dominates both Adam Lind and Howie Kendrick (who hit .154 and .167 off him). But both players have come off the bench, so their matchups against Arrieta will be minimal.

The numbers may be skewed though.

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The Nationals have seemed fortunate in that they haven’t crossed paths with the streaky Arrieta when he’s stringing together consecutive solid outings. They avoided him during his historical 2015 second half. In Arrieta’s sole start against the Nationals in 2016, he allowed only two earned runs through five innings. This season, they put up six runs against him in an outing during his second-worst month of the year.

Arrieta had a 2.25 ERA in July and followed that with an August where his ERA was 1.21 through six starts. He was injured early in September. He likely came back too soon which may help explain the steep ERA climb to 6.10 in those three September starts.

His postseason numbers are far from consistent. He threw a complete game shut out in his sole Wild Card start in 2015. He’s 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in two career NLDS starts. In the NLCS, he’s 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA. In his two World Series starts in 2016, Arrieta won both games and sported an ERA of 2.38.

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Cubs’ fans wait eagerly to see which version of Arrieta takes the mound Tuesday afternoon against Tanner Roark and the Nationals. Questions of health and rust loom as he hasn’t pitched since September 26. If the right-handed fringe-ace shows up with his A-stuff, Cubs’ fans can look forward to a masterful pitching display. If the 10 1/3 innings he pitched in September are indicative of what he’ll bring Tuesday, then the offense will have their work cut out for them.