<
>

Even in defeat, Arrieta shows maturity

CHICAGO -- In nearly every outing this season, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta shows a little bit more maturity, as he continues to grow into one of the better pitchers in the game.

Arrieta struggled early in Saturday's 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, as he allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base and then gave up a one-out, two-run double to the scorching-hot Matt Adams. Despite the rough start, Arrieta was able to bounce back and deliver six strong innings, in which he struck out six and walked only one while giving up only the two runs and five hits.

His manager, Rick Renteria, was thrilled Arrieta was able to battle through and help save an overworked bullpen. Although Renteria couldn't pinpoint what was wrong early, he was pleased with the end result.

"I would just simply say, they don't always feel good at every outing," Renteria said. "Today was maybe not one of those where he felt his best. But he settled down [and] worked with what he had today, which is what a pitcher's supposed to do."

Arrieta has focused more on his mechanics this season and said he has been more aware of his body and thus able to adjust more quickly when things go askew. Early on, Arrieta said he was getting on top of his pitches too early, which led to them being too far down in the zone, particularly his slider.

"I came out kind of flat in the first," Arrieta said. "[I] really struggled with command of just about everything today. Didn't really have a pitch I could go to, necessarily, in some spots to induce contact or kind of make things a little less difficult on myself. [My] pitch count got up [and] it was just pretty much a battle, start to finish."

It was Adams who did damage early, but Arrieta was able to retire him the next two times he came to the plate. Reliever James Russell wasn't as lucky, as Adams drove a two-run triple into the right-center field gap to extend the Cardinals' lead to 5-2 in the seventh.

Arrieta pointed out that Adams, who has a .320/.335/.523 line on the season, has been a tough out for every pitcher this year.

"He's hitting just about any pitch in multiple parts of the strike zone. That creates a tough out for anybody," Arrieta said. "He's able to handle breaking balls down and in, he's able to handle the ball away with velocity, and he's able to get on top of the ball if you try and elevate on him. He's seeing it well, and he's doing some good things for that line up."

Despite the early blip on Saturday, for a rotation that recently dealt away two of its better performers, Arrieta continues to show he might be the anchor for which the organization has been searching. He has a 2.18 ERA with a 27.4 percent strikeout rate and 7.2 percent walk rate in 91 innings. Those are the type of numbers that make the Cubs believe Arrieta is their No. 1 not just for the rest of this season, but also the foreseeable future.

"That performance was probably indicative of how much he's grown," Renteria said. "What if that was a couple years ago, when maybe he was struggling a little bit and wasn't able to grind through and pitch through six innings with not his best command of stuff? Today he did. I thought he worked really well."