CHICAGO -- After facing just one batter, Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta could sense that Sunday would be a struggle -- even though he struck out Arizona Diamondbacks leadoff hitter Michael Bourn on the 10th pitch of the game.
“I made some good pitches to him. A good, long at-bat,” Arrieta said. “They had a pretty good approach. They made me show I had the ability to throw strikes or get in the strike zone early with the intent of getting in some hitter-friendly counts. The pitch count got up.”
And for the first time since July 25 of last season, a team was able to hang a regular-season loss on Arrieta, who allowed three runs on nine hits with 12 strikeouts in the Cubs’ 3-2 loss.
The strikeouts were a season high, and just about everyone in the Cubs clubhouse was convinced Arrieta (9-1) was sharp.
“Bourn set the tone for them with that leadoff at-bat,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Jake had great stuff. Any time they put the ball in play, it found an opening. Give them credit. They worked really good at-bats.”
Arizona didn’t throw a no-hitter or even a shutout, but it did produce one statistical oddity. The D-backs had 10 balls put in play against Arrieta and nine were hits. That’s an outrageous batting average of .900 on balls in play.
“It was just a strange day overall,” Arrieta said. “Everything they put in play seemed to be a base hit. Just a strange day all the way around.”
The big blow of the game was a two-run double by Arizona’s Yasmany Tomas in the second inning. Arrieta said the pitch to Tomas was a 96 mph sinker that moved inside off the plate against the right-handed batter -- just where he wanted it.
“He made a good pitch to Tomas, down and in,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “I thought it was a good pitch and he was able to put a barrel on it into the gap. I mean, it happens. It’s part of the game.”
It was a strange ending for a 10-game homestand in which the Cubs went 8-2. Oddly, both losses came on days Arrieta started. (The Dodgers won 5-0 on Tuesday, although Arrieta left after seven innings with the game scoreless and received a no-decision.)
“To lose a one-run game with a chance to sweep is tough,” Arrieta said, “but we’re playing really well right now.”
As for the winning streak ending, he was equally philosophical.
“Well, it was a good run, over the course of half a season or so last year and a pretty good stretch this year,” Arrieta said. “So, get something new started.”