Veteran pitchers step up for Cubs as Arrieta, Kimbrel lead the way to victory
Two outings, two wins for Jake Arrieta and the Cubs.
Can’t ask for a much better start than that.
The veteran picked up his second straight victory Thursday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, battling through 6 innings of work in a 4-2 Cubs win. He worked around 7 hits and 3 walks but limited the damage to only 2 runs.
Arrieta wove through traffic in each inning until the 6th, when he needed only seven pitches to dispatch the Pirates.
“I didn’t know if he was going to be able to get through 5 how it started off,” David Ross said. “That’s what a veteran pitcher does, though. A guy of his status, when you’re not feeling your best and things aren’t sharp and you’re walking guys, you can’t find your rhythm — they still find a way to compete.
“That’s what’s nice about having a guy with his résumé out there is that you gotta trust that they’ll figure it out and try to at least make competitive pitches and keep the game close. That’s exactly what he did and was able to get a win out of it.”
That’s back-to-back quality starts and a 2.25 season ERA for Arrieta in the early going of his return to the Cubs (4-3).
He has owned the Pirates in his career, including a gem at PNC Park in the 2015 NL Wild-Card Game. With Thursday’s win, he improved to 14-6 against Pittsburgh with a 2.87 ERA in 25 career starts.
“It felt a little bit like ’15 with Jake on the bump in the Wild-Card Game,” Ross said. “That’s probably the best memory I have in this place. That’s the first thing that came to mind.”
Arrieta admitted it was a battle from the outset of Thursday’s game without his usual feel for a couple pitches. But he wanted to continue to be aggressive and believes good things are in store for him as the season progresses.
“It’s only gonna get better,” Arrieta said.
Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel looked as locked in as he’s ever been with the Cubs after a spectacular performance to save the victory for Arrieta.
Kimbrel came into a bases loaded situation in the 8th inning and promptly struck out the next 2 hitters to keep the 2-run lead intact. He then worked through a perfect 9th inning to record his first career 5-out save. It was also the 350th save in the big leagues.
He has not allowed a baserunner yet this season in 4.2 innings, striking out 9 batters.
“Let’s take a moment to appreciate the greatness of Craig Kimbrel and what he’s been able to do over the course of his career — 350 saves is truly remarkable,” Arrieta said. “He’s got 95-98 [mph] with a wipeout slider, he’s not fazed by anything. Just an incredibly difficult at-bat from a right-handed batter, from a left-handed batter — it doesn’t matter.
“To come in there in the 8th, get the final 2 outs and to come in the 9th and just make it look easy. He’s a special one.”