As slide continues, Arrieta insists he’s not done: ‘I still have a lot left in the tank’
As Jake Arrieta walked off the mound in the top of the 2nd inning Tuesday night, boos rained down from Wrigley Field as the crowd of 30,095 Cubs fans openly voiced their displeasure.
Just three months earlier, the same fanbase gave Arrieta a roaring ovation as he led the Cubs to their first victory of the season against the Pirates on April 3.
When Arrieta re-signed with the Cubs over the winter, it was a nostalgic move for the franchise and fanbase but it was also a noteworthy addition for a team still filling out its rotation.
Things haven’t quite worked out the way Arrieta or the Cubs have hoped.
He was unable to finish the 2nd inning Tuesday night, surrendering 7 runs as the Cubs dropped their 11th straight game, 15-10.
Phillies leadoff hitter Jean Segura sent Arrieta’s first pitch of the evening into the left field corner for a double. After a hit-by-pitch and a single, Andrew McCutchen deposited an Arrieta offering into the center field bleachers for a grand slam and the Phillies were up 4-0 in a snap of a finger.
In the 2nd inning, Arrieta gave up 3 hits, a pair of walks and 3 more runs before manager David Ross came out to make a pitching change. It was the second straight outing in which Arrieta was unable to finish the 2nd inning.
The 35-year-old veteran was the anchor of the Cubs starting rotation in April, posting a 2.57 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over his first 5 starts.
Then he dealt with a cut on the thumb of his pitching hand during his April 30 start in Cincinnati and wound up on the injured list for two weeks. His first start back was solid but since then, he has an 8.51 ERA and 2.05 WHIP in 10 outings.
When asked if this is the twilight of his career, the 35-year-old starter passionately delivered an opposing stance.
“No, not even close,” Arrieta said. “This sucks. Really, it does. But I’m not gonna hang my head. I’m gonna continue to work. I’m gonna do whatever needs to be done. The stuff is too good. I still have a lot left in the tank, there’s no question about that.
“The stuff plays, the execution’s not there — it hasn’t been for a while. But I’ve been in similar situations in my career. I’ve been in worse situations than this.
“I know where my stuff ranks in the game. I watch a lot of baseball. It’s still there. It is. This is a tough stretch for us as a team and for me individually.”
Chicago is where Arrieta became a star, leading the league in wins (22), starts (33), complete games (4) and shutouts (3) in 2015 while posting a 1.77 and winning the Cy Young.
He went 2-0 in the 2016 World Series, leading the Cubs to crucial victories on the road in Cleveland in Games 2 and 6.
Arrieta has always had the unique ability to simultaneously look at the big picture while also keeping himself focused on the day-to-day mindset necessary during a marathon season. He understands what might be coming for this team as the trade deadline rapidly approaches.
“There’s no storybook ending that’s just magically gonna be written,” Arrieta said. “We have to create that as a group and I have to be a big part of that as an individual.
“That’s as simple as I can put it. Whatever needs to be done will get done. That’s all I can say. It’s frustrating, but it’s over. It’s over and done with.”
Arrieta’s turn in the rotation is scheduled to come up again on Sunday, the final day before the All-Star Break. Ross wouldn’t commit to a decision on who will take the ball for the Cubs against the Cardinals that afternoon.
“I gotta look at that,” Ross said. “We got a lot going on. Eleven losses in a row — we got a lot to look at. I’ll wrap my brain around this one tonight and try to attack the problems in the morning.”
Ross caught Arrieta’s second no-hitter in April 2016 and had a front row seat as the right-hander transformed into one of the best pitchers in the game.
“I’ve seen him at his best and what he’s been able to do,” Ross said. “I still feel like there’s a better version of him in there somewhere. I think it’s on him and us to try to figure out how to unlock that. I’ve seen too many good outings to believe this version of him and maybe that’s me being naive.
“I know that there’s more in there. The [radar] gun says pretty good numbers. This guy’s meant so much to the franchise — to me personally — that it’s a hard thing for me to wrap my brain around.”
After Arrieta left the game, the Phillies offense continued to terrorize the Cubs pitching staff with 2 runs in the 4th inning and 6 more in the 6th.
This week marks the first time the Cubs have allowed at least 13 runs in consecutive home games since Sept. 8-9, 2000.
The Cubs now sit at 42-44 on the season, 9 games behind the Brewers in the division.
Báez, bats come alive
Tuesday wasn’t all bad news for the Cubs.
Javy Báez was a bright spot, driving in a run in the 3rd inning with a sacrifice fly and then hitting homers in back-to-back at-bats later in the game.
Over the last 3 contests, Báez is 6-for-10 with a double, 3 homers and 7 RBI. He has also been a lot more patient, drawing 6 walks over his last 9 games.
Tuesday night’s big game gives Báez 21 homers and 56 RBI on the season — both of which rank in the Top 10 in the National League.
Overall, the Cubs lineup put together a solid night at the plate with 10 runs and 14 hits. Joc Pederson had 2 RBI hits while Kris Bryant, Ian Happ and Jake Marisnick also knocked in runs. Robinson Chirinos — who was signed Monday — homered in a pinch-hit appearance in the 9th inning.
It was the Cubs’ best offensive showing since May 29, when they scored 10 runs against the Reds.
“The positive is the offense may have found a spark and hopefully we can carry that into tomorrow,” Ross said.
The Cubs also received some encouraging updates on the state of their pitching staff.
Trevor Williams was activated off the injured list Tuesday afternoon and threw 3.2 innings in relief. It was his first game action since May 26 after missing time with an appendectomy.
Ryan Tepera (calf) threw a live BP session Tuesday to teammate Patrick Wisdom and is expected to come off the IL when first available Friday.
“He looked great,” Ross said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Obviously the next day is always important but good signs today.”
The Cubs also placed pitcher Kohl Stewart (elbow) and infielder Eric Sogard (thumb) on the 10-day IL, recalling Sergio Alcántara to take Sogard’s place on the roster.
Alcántara started Tuesday night’s game at second base and scored the Cubs’ first run in the 3rd inning.