Jake Arrieta is proving his value in the Cubs’ rotation
When Jake Arrieta returned to the Cubs, David Ross and the rest of his staff had an idea of the type of the pitcher he could. They knew he wasn’t the same pitcher that won the 2015 Cy Young Award but were well aware of what was still left in the tank.
“[I] didn’t follow him really closely in Philadelphia,” Ross said. “But our guys identified some things he does well and maybe some areas we could help, and Jake’s put in a lot of work to get back to the version of him that he believes he is, and we believe he is.”
One thing Arrieta hasn’t lost is his moxie.
After starting the game allowing a double, a single and back-to-back walks, Arrieta settled in, retiring the next 15 Brewer hitters he faced. In the 6th inning, he allowed runners on second and third with no outs but struck out the next three batters to escape unscathed.
It wasn’t enough, though, as the lone Brewer run was enough to beat the Cubs and take the series finale, 6-0. The Brewers tacked on 5 runs in the top of the 9th to put the game out of reach.
“The bases loaded walk to Shaw, pretty nice pitch,” Arrieta said. “Feel like it could’ve gone either way. Not a bad call. Not a bad take by Shaw. Threw it pretty much exactly where I would like to put that pitch in that situation. It just went the other way. Was able to minimize damage, obviously, only giving up 1 in the 1st. That was big.”
He finished the day pitching 6 innings of 1-run ball, striking out 8 and allowing just 2 hits and 3 walks. Arrieta was able to settle back in by attacking the Brewer hitters and relying on his defense. Arrieta induced 5 groundball outs, 2 popouts and 3 flyouts.
“Sometimes you just gotta bear down and make big pitches,” Arrieta said. “The mindset after the first was to get weak contact, try and preserve the pitch count, pitch as deep as I could into the ballgame.”
It summed up the type of pitcher Arrieta has reinvented himself into. No longer is he the hard-throwing, power pitcher, but rather the finesse, weak-contact-inducing pitcher.
“I think that the evolution of most starting pitchers,” Ross said. “It’s power and stuff in the zone and learning to pitch with that stuff and as the stuff may tick down, you start to get to the corners and you start to manipulate the ball.”
Third time was not the charm for the Cubs against Brewers’ starter Brandon Woodruff.
Woodruff has made five starts this season and three of them have come against the Cubs. In all three, he’s been nearly unhittable. Woodruff pitched 6 no-hit innings in his first start against the Cubs on April 7, then pitched 3 no-hit innings against them on April 13. Sunday, he pitched 3 perfect innings to open the game and continued giving the Cubs’ hitters fits.
In 19 innings against the Cubs, Woodruff has allowed just 6 hits and 1 run while striking out 22.
“His sinker, his fastball was moving. It had extra life today. It was two seaming down and hard,” Anthony Rizzo said. “He’s a bulldog up there and it’s fun facing him because you know he’s coming at you and we just didn’t have it today and he had success off it.”
On Sunday he went pitched 6 shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks and striking out 8.
The Cubs’ first baserunner of the day came in the 4th inning, when Ian Happ drew a walk to start the frame. David Bote followed up with a single to left field. Woodruff settled in, striking out Rizzo and then escaping the jam with a strikeout-caught-stealing combo on Kris Bryant and nabbing Happ attempting to swipe third.
“Pretty relentless with attacking the zone,” Nico Hoerner said. “He’s in the zone really high percentage with all of his pitches and he threw well today. We had a couple of chances to score and i thought we were going to get him in those middle innings, but we didn’t.”
Joc Pederson’s wrist is progressing smoothly, and Ross and the Cubs are hopeful he’ll get a chance to get back to hitting this week.
“Joc feels great,” Ross said. “Some really good progress in the last two days that feels like the irritation is getting out of there.”
Pederson was placed on the 10-day injured list on April 22 with left wrist tendinitis. He’ll likely take some batting practice swings during the middle of the week with the hope being he can take live batting practice by the weekend.
“We have to obviously listen to him and the wrist and if the batting practice goes well and the next day there’s no residual effects from that, then we’ll continue to push him forward,” Ross said. “That stuff really has a lot to do with how he feels and how he bounces back, but we do have a plan in place for him to start hitting maybe Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Tepera officially suspended
Ryan Tepera and the Cubs learned Sunday morning that his suspension had been reduced from 3 games down to 2 after his appeal. Tepera was issued the suspension for throwing behind Woodruff on April 13 in Milwaukee.
He started serving the suspension Sunday and will miss Monday’s opener in Atlanta.
“It stinks to play a man down, for sure,” Ross said. “I don’t know what the argument was, but we’ll be happy to get him back in Atlanta on that second day, for sure.”