MILWAUKEE – Just when you may want to write Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta off, he has an outing like Thursday when he shut down the Milwaukee Brewers en route to a 5-1 victory to help halt the Cubs' five-game slide.
“I was pretty much in control from start to finish,” Arrieta said afterward. “I told (pitching coach Chris) Bosio I feel like I just threw my pregame pen and I could have gone another 100 pitches. That’s how good I felt today.”
You can’t blame Arrieta for sounding so positive, not after so many frustrating starts. He limited the Brewers to three hits and one walk over seven innings.
Consider these numbers: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Arrieta's strike percentage was a whopping 73.9. That’s the best of any start in his career. He limited himself to one 3-1 count and didn’t go 3-0 on a hitter for the first time this season. The Brewers were 1-for-11 in at-bats ending on a breaking pitch, including 0-for-6 on Arrieta's curveball.
“That was by far his best curveball,” manager Dale Sveum said.
Arrieta's problems always stem from his control, but over the last two outings he’s been on his game. Ironically, he’s walked the leadoff man in each of them, but those would be his only free passes of the day.
“That was good because sometimes he has trouble losing it, but he got it back,” Sveum said. “That was his best command since he’s been here.”
Arrieta has walked three or fewer in every start this month after struggling in that department in August. Since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade, he’s been Jekyll and Hyde on the mound -- at times dominant and at times making it way too easy on the opposition.
“I have to control my effort and not be too anxious with trying to throw the ball through the wall,” Arrieta said.
Make no mistake, Arrieta has world-class stuff and can be a big part of the Cubs' future if he wants to be. His breaking pitches are as good as they come.
“When you can throw that slider/cutter and average 90 mph and then flip that curveball ... that’s what you want,” Sveum said.
Catcher Welington Castillo was also impressed by Arrieta's curveball.
“I’m catching it. It’s a really good breaking ball," Castillo said. "Not everyone has that kind of breaking ball.”
His stuff is the kind that made the move to get him an easy decision. Arrieta is so close to putting it all together and could be one scary pitcher come 2014 and beyond. But he has to get there. His fastball command sets up everything.
“Gotta get that established as early as possible and not allow hitters to eliminate pitches,” he said.
His catcher summed up Arrieta’s abilities in one sentence.
“When he’s in the strike zone," Castillo said, "he gets everyone out.”
Castillo hurting: Castillo left Thursday’s game with soreness in his right knee. He’ll be examined by doctors Friday.
“It hurts when I run and catch, but mostly when I run the bases,” he said.