As of right now, Jake Arrieta will have four days off next week instead of taking an All-Star Game detour to Cincinnati.
Arrieta wasn't named to the National League team, but he went out and proved he's one of the game's top pitchers by shutting down the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-4 win, setting the Game 1 tone in Tuesday's doubleheader at Wrigley Field.
Arrieta had a shutout going until the seventh inning, when the Cardinals strung together a few two-out hits to push across a pair of runs.
"He pitched great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Great stuff again. I thought he was in a really good position to go eight solid, maybe eight-plus (innings), and it just went away on us. But nevertheless, he pitched wonderfully."
Arrieta finished with his fourth straight quality start, striking out four and allowing seven hits and two walks. Arrieta even came through at the plate, singling twice and scoring what proved to be an important run in the sixth inning.
Over those last four starts, the 29-year-old righty has taken his game to the next level, going 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. He's also found success against the Cardinals in his career, improving to 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA in nine starts against the division rival.
After Tuesday's outing, Arrieta's strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 4.56, good for ninth in the NL, ahead of All Stars like Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha and A.J. Burnett.
"He's a strike-thrower. You look at the walk-to-strikeout ratio, it's fantastic," Maddon said. "His stuff is in that 'elite' category of stuff — velocity, movement, other pitches, breaking ball, what he can do to the opposite side (left-handed hitters). He's an elite pitcher."
Arrieta is 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, racking up 114 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings. But the NL roster is loaded with pitchers, so much so that big names like Johnny Cueto (2.84 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (3.08 ERA, NL-leading 147 strikeouts) are among the Final Vote candidates.
Maddon believes Arrieta deserves to be in the Midsummer Classic but understands they can't take everybody.
"A lot of guys (got snubbed)," Maddon said. "That's the thing. In that moment of having to make those choices, there are so many tough ones to make. It's so difficult.
"So at the end of the day, everybody's going to feel that way. Of course, Jake is worthy. No question, he's worthy. But I guess Kershaw is worthy, too. And Cueto is worthy, too.
"It's hard to make any kind of argument when you see those other names out there, too."
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Arrieta agreed but also thought his name would be in the discussion.
"I figured I had a shot," he said. "I just knew that there's a lot of guys this year — especially in the National League — that are putting together tremendous years. Obviously the guys at the top — (Zack) Greinke leading the league in ERA, Cole, Burnett, (Max) Scherzer. It's a tough crop to hang with."
Arrieta also made sure to mention how happy he is for his two teammates — Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. But Rizzo was still making the case for Arrieta and Jason Hammel after Tuesday's Game 1.
"I am very surprised (neither guy was taken)," Rizzo said, "but you look at the way things are handled with the whole All-Star process, you just never know."
San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (3.34 ERA) made the NL roster over guys like Arrieta, Cueto and Kershaw. But because the Giants are the defending World Series champions, Bruce Bochy gets to manage the team and take his guy.
"Is it the spoils go to the victors? That's exactly what it is," said Maddon, who managed the 2009 American League All-Star team after his Tampa Bay Rays made it to the 2008 World Series.
"I have no problem with that. Because when I have this opportunity to do that again, you'll probably see the same thing."