Back with the Cubs, Jake Arrieta aiming for more magical moments
The history of the Chicago Cubs cannot be told without mentioning Jake Arrieta.
The 2015 National League Cy Young winner was a huge part of the Cubs team that broke the longest championship drought in American sports history in 2016.
Now the postseason hero has a chance to add to his legacy as he and the Cubs reached an agreement for 2021.
Arrieta’s signing is a huge lift for the fanbase and the finishing touch on the roster as spring training kicks off. The Cubs know they’re going to need all the pitching depth they can get in 2021 and Arrieta represents a veteran option in a rotation filled with question marks.
Arrieta — who will turn 35 early next month — signed a 3-year, $75 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2017 season while the Cubs signed Yu Darvish to a 6-year contract. Arrieta went 22-23 with a 4.36 ERA over the life of his deal and the Cubs traded away Darvish in the final days of 2020.
Regardless of how the 2021 season plays out, the 2013 trade for Arrieta will go down as one of the greatest deals in Cubs history.
Here are some of his best moments in his Chicago tenure…to date.
Cy Young run
Arrieta’s final 2015 numbers were eye-popping: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 4 complete games, 3 shutouts, 236 strikeouts, 0.87 WHIP, only 10 homers allowed in 229 innings.
But those stats are nothing compared to his epic second half: 12-1, 0.75 ERA, 0.73 WHIP in 15 starts.
Quite simply: It was the greatest pitching performance the game has ever seen and his 0.75 ERA set a new MLB record for second half.
His season ERA was the best mark in a Cubs uniform since 1920, topping Pete Alexander’s 1.91 ERA from 1920.
From June 21 through the end of the 2015 campaign, Arrieta rattled off 20 straight quality starts giving up just 14 earned runs total in that stretch.
Arrieta’s consistency during the stretch was unparalleled and gave the Cubs a major jolt of confidence every time he took the hill as they soared to 97 regular-season wins and a trip to the playoffs.
2015 Wild-Card Game
Arrieta capped off his historic run with a complete game shutout in the Wild-Card Game. It was an epic outing that undoubtedly ranks as one of the most important pitching performances in Cubs history.
He struck out 11 Pirates and allowed just 5 hits as the Cubs won 4-0 and kickstarted a playoff run that rolled all the way to the National League Championship Series.
Arrieta was in complete command of the evening, silencing the Pittsburgh crowd on multiple occasions including the bottom of the 6th when the Pirates loaded the bases with only 1 out. That moment was about as loud as I’ve ever heard an MLB stadium, but the noise and pressure did not faze Arrieta one bit as he induced a double play off the bat of Starling Marte to end the threat.
It was exactly the kind of lift that Cubs team needed as they ascended from an upstart squad to a legitimate contender.
The course of the next couple seasons might have been completely different if Arrieta did not step up the way he did in that do-or-die Wild-Card Game.
Arrieta tallied 2 no-hitters in an eight-month span with the first coming Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles and the second coming in Cincinnati on April 21, 2016.
He struck out 12 Dodgers and permitted just 1 walk in 2015 as he put himself firmly in the Cy Young race with the historic outing on a nationally televised Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.
The second instance gave David Ross a special moment in his final season as a player. The current Cubs manager had never caught a no-hitter until that fateful night in April 2016.
Arrieta struck out 6 Reds and walked 4 batters as he needed just 119 pitches to dispatch the Cubs’ NL Central rivals in a 16-0 win.
2016 World Series
Arrieta played a huge role in the rise of the Cubs in 2015 but he was also an integral part in the 2016 postseason.
On the surface, his World Series numbers are impressive alone: 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 in 2 starts.
But each individual outing was imperative to the Cubs’ success in immeasurable ways.
Arrieta’s first start came in Game 2 after the Cubs had already dropped the first contest in Cleveland and were desperately trying to avoid falling behind 2-0 in the series. He took a no-hitter into the 6th inning before giving up a 1-out double to Jason Kipnis.
His next appearance came in Game 6 when the Cubs were facing elimination and again earned a crucial win on the road on the game’s biggest stage.
When Arrieta walked off the mound in the 7th inning of Game 4 against the Dodgers in the 2017 NLCS, the Wrigley faithful showered him with a standing ovation. It was well deserved after a gritty performance (1 run and 9 strikeouts over 6.2 innings) but it also represented the end of an era.
Arrieta was a free agent at the end of the season and the Cubs were already down 3-0 in the series to the powerhouse Dodgers. It was his last start with the Cubs (until the first time he dons the blue and white this year) and it also was the organization’s last postseason win.
Overall in the playoffs, Arrieta was 5-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 9 starts for the Cubs. His 5 victories ties Mordecai Brown as a Cubs franchise record.