Chicago Cubs turn to Jake Arrieta in what could be his last start

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Jake Arrieta
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Jake Arrieta /

The Chicago Cubs are down three games to none in the 2017 NLCS. However, Jake Arrieta starting Game 4 is exactly what the reigning champs need.

Wednesday night could be the final game that the Chicago Cubs play in 2017. The Cubs lost Game 3 of the National League Championship Series 6-1 on Tuesday night. With the loss, they now trail the Los Angeles Dodgers in the series three games-to-none.

The Dodgers have absolutely stymied the Cubs, beating them in practically every way possible on the field. The Dodgers have outscored the Cubs 15-4 in three games. Furthermore, their bullpen has allowed just two hits in three games (10 2/3 IP).

Pitching staff struggles

On the one hand, the Cubs’ inability to score has hampered the team.. The offense has not come through as needed, scoring no more than two runs in any of the three games. However, the Cubs’ pitching staff has not been dominant in its own right either.

The Washington Nationals gave the Cubs all they could handle in the National League Division Series. Every Cubs’ starting pitcher (excluding John Lackey) pitched in Games 3 and 4. The Cubs had little time to regroup, as Game 5 of the NLDS was Thursday and Game 1 of the NLCS was Saturday.

José Quintana (5.0 IP), Jon Lester (4 2/3 IP) and Kyle Hendricks (5.0 IP) have all delivered short outings, putting stress on a bullpen already in decline.  As a whole, the Cubs pitching staff entered the NLCS taxed.

Big-name relievers have not delivered as needed

Carl Edwards Jr. has had an up-and-down postseason, showing flashes of brilliance at times and looking completely lost at others. Edwards pitched 1 1/3 innings in Game 2, allowing no hits while striking out three. He followed this up by walking Dodgers’ pitcher Yu Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded in Game 4, forcing in a run.

Edwards is not the only reliever struggling, but his bad outings have been magnified due to how often he has pitched. Of the eight postseason games the Cubs have played in, Edwards has pitched in seven of them. He has walked at least one batter in four of these outings.

Similarly, Mike Montgomery has appeared in four of the team’s postseason games, struggling every game. In four games (2 1/3 IP), Montgomery has allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits, walking four batters as well.

Edwards and Montgomery pitching so poorly hurts the Cubs greatly. Both pitched well in the regular season and the expectation was that this would carry over into the postseason. Instead, both have flopped more often than not when called upon.

Arrieta right man for Game 4

Ultimately, the struggles of the bullpen and fact that the Cubs are on the brink of elimination only make it more imperative that Jake Arrieta delivers in his start on Wednesday. Luckily for the Cubs, Arrieta has proven to be a big-game guy in the postseason for the team.

In eight career postseason starts (all since 2015), Arrieta is 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 46 innings. Opponents have hit just .197 against him, combining to score just 18 runs (17 earned) on 33 hits.

Though Arrieta only lasted four innings in Game 4 of the NLDS, he allowed just one unearned run on two hits. A high pitch count caused him to exit the game early, something the Cubs cannot afford on Wednesday.

Arrieta has pitched at least five innings in his other seven career postseason starts. However, he has not pitched six innings since Game 3 of the 2016 NLDS. His last postseason start of more than six innings came in the 2015 National League Wild Card Game.

Ultimately, the Cubs do not need Arrieta to pitch another complete game as he did in that game. The team needs at least six solid innings from him, but the longer he can stay in and pitch well, the better. Ultimately, a long, dominant outing from him is exactly what the team needs.

Next: Cubs face stark odds after Game 3 loss

The Cubs have nowhere to go but up in the NLCS, as it is now win or go home. Arrieta’s future with the Cubs is dim, as he is eligible for free agency after the season. This season is not over just yet, however. With their backs against the wall, Arrieta is the perfect guy to have on the mound to save the Cubs’ season.