PITTSBURGH – Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitched a complete-game shutout, extending his scoreless streak to 31 innings, as the Cubs blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 in the National League wild-card game Wednesday.
He got support from rookie Kyle Schwarber, who quieted a raucous Pirates crowd with a mammoth, two-run home run to right field that left the park entirely in the third inning after he had an RBI single in the first. The Cubs never looked back as Arrieta did what he does, though he hit two batters, leading to retaliation as Tony Watson hit him as he batted in the seventh. The benches cleared, there was some pushing and shoving, and Pirates infielder Sean Rodriguez was ejected.
Arrieta’s only jam came in the sixth, when he loaded the bases, but a hard-hit ground ball to Addison Russell turned into the inning-ending double play, as second baseman Starlin Castro made a nice turn. Arrieta also induced a double play to end the seventh as well. He gave up four hits and struck out 11.
Thumbs up: Schwarber’s playoff debut was memorable. His home run was a 430-foot rocket, embodying his nickname of “Bam Bam.” According to research from ESPN Stats and Information, Schwarber is the second-youngest player with at least a home run and three RBIs in his postseason debut. He’s also the first rookie in Cubs history with two hits, including a HR, in a postseason game.
Dexter Fowler had three hits after batting just .204 in September. He was on base twice for Schwarber's RBI hits, then homered to center.
Thumbs down: No one else in the Cubs' lineup did much at the plate -- not that they needed it -- as they managed just two hits outside of Fowler and Schwarber.
What’s next: The Cubs have a date in the division series with another rival, and the team with the best record in the league, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs had trouble with the Cardinals earlier in the season but beat them two out of three in a pair of September series. The Cardinals won the season series 11-8 but have lost six of their past nine meetings with the Cubs. Jon Lester will start Game 1 on Friday.