Jake Arrieta threw a complete game on Sunday allowing one run on just two hits and put an end to any debate about who the ace of the Chicago Cubs is as the team took down the White Sox 3-1, and avoided being swept by the South-siders. Arrieta also had his first career home run in support of his own efforts on the mound to gain his tenth victory on the year, matching his season high before the start of the second half. He is, quite simply, one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, and it’s a damn shame he won’t be pitching in tonight’s All-Star contest as the man is clearly operating at the top of his game right now.
“His stuff is among the elite level of major league pitchers,” Manager Joe Maddon said after Sunday’s game. “There’s no question.”
He struck out the side in the first and did the same to end the game in the ninth as he totaled nine K’s on the afternoon. Backed by some early run support, a rare commodity around these parts as of late, Arrieta cruised before aiding his own cause in the bottom of the fifth as he homered 380 feet for his first career home run, a feat he wished he would have been able to savor as the ball just made it into the left field basket.
“I would have liked to have hit the first one knowing it was a homer instead of having to sprint to first,” Arrieta said. “But yeah, I mean, that was cool.”
That’s Arrieta at the moment; cool, calm, and commanding. He is doing everything to get his team the W, an effort you’d like to see replicated by some of his teammates (i.e. Jon Lester and Starlin Castro). He is a big reason the Cubs enter the break at 47 – 40 and despite being 8 games back of division leader, St. Louis, the Cubs hold a one game lead for the second and final Wild Card spot meaning there will be meaningful, second-half baseball played on the North Side of Chicago for the first time in over half a decade.
Despite the Cubs offensive struggles this team has found a way to grind out wins, and they have their pitching to thank for that as the starting pitching staff had allowed two or less runs in 11 straight games heading into last Saturday’s contest. That is pretty remarkable stuff and a big reason this team hasn’t dipped closer to .500, which was a possibility given how quiet their bats had become.
This is a team that is feeling good if not great about themselves heading into the All-Star break but they believe their best baseball is yet to come.
“Seven-plus [over .500] going into the break — I’ll take that,” Maddon said. “Because I do believe there is a lot to look forward to on the other side.”
Next Up: The NL All-Stars take on their AL counterparts in tonight’s All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, OH. Game time is 6:30PM CT. Anthony Rizzo will start at DH for the National League with Kris Bryant coming off the bench.
Let’s Go Cubs!