BOSTON – It was just one start ago that Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta took a perfect game into the seventh inning in a 7-3 Cubs win against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. He did one better Monday by getting two outs into the eighth inning before giving up his only hit of the day, a single to right field by Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew in Chicago's 2-0 victory.
Arrieta is becoming accustomed to the feeling.
“The tension builds there as the fifth and sixth innings approach,” the right-hander said after Monday's game. “The space around me kind of increases, naturally. To do something like this last week at Wrigley and then to do it here, in these two parks, is pretty special.”
Arrieta might eventually finish the deal. It’s all coming together now for the 28-year-old. His stuff is elite and his work ethic, demeanor and know-how are catching up. Arrieta threw a career-high 120 pitches Monday, walked one and struck out 10.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much in many areas,” Arrieta said. “When I started to play this game, I was still a kid. Now I feel like a young man who’s continuing to learn and grow ...”
After a late start to the season due to a sore shoulder, Arrieta has won four consecutive games while lowering his ERA to 1.81. Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio was asked why Arrieta has taken his game to another level.
“He’s found his routine,” Bosio responded. "He trusts his stuff. He’s matured as a pitcher. And opportunity.”
Bosio referred to Arrieta taking the mound every fifth day healthy. The Cubs should be commended for how they handled him in spring training and to start the season. They never rushed him back, and now it’s paying off. The trade of Scott Feldman to Baltimore that brought Arrieta to Chicago this past season is also paying off. Arrieta is turning into an elite pitcher before our eyes.
“We’ve always known what Jake has, and it’s always been electric,” teammate Jeff Samardzija said. “Sometimes it’s about everything coming together at the right time.”
As everyone in baseball knows, Samardzija could be on the move soon, along with fellow starter Jason Hammel. That means Arrieta would become the de facto ace. He’s pitching like one, that’s for sure.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, Arrieta threw 39 cutters Monday, and the Red Sox were 0-for-11 on them, including four strikeouts. In his past four games, he’s thrown 137 cutters, and the opposition is just 6-for-38 with one walk and 15 strikeouts.
“Everything was down,” Arrieta explained. “When you’re able to get down with multiple pitches, they can’t guess on anything. I did a good job on that.”
For fans worried that the trade-happy Cubs might move him, there’s one good reason they won’t: He’s making $544,500 this year and isn’t a free agent until after the 2017 season. The only question about Arrieta right now is if he would have gone out for Monday's ninth inning after 120 pitches.
“I’m not going to speculate, but I would assume yes,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said with a smile. “He was throwing very easy. His delivery is spot-on right now. He was very methodical.”
And he was dominant. Again.