Cubs

Arrieta wins 16th straight decision as Cubs beat Brewers

Arrieta wins 16th straight decision as Cubs beat Brewers

Jake Arrieta's bid for a second straight no-hitter was dashed on his fifth pitch. His Wrigley Field scoreless streak ended at 52 2/3 innings.

Oh, and he won his 16th consecutive decision, the longest streak in the major leagues in a decade.

"I was a little flat today," the NL Cy Young Award winner said Thursday after leading the Chicago Cubs over the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2.

Chicago improved to 16-5, its best 21-game start since opening 1907 at 17-4.

"Our most important ballgames are still ahead of us," Arrieta said. "We're still lined up pretty well."

Arrieta (5-0) gave up one run, three hits and four walks in five innings — the first run he allowed at home since July 25. Alex Presley's fifth-inning RBI double ended Arrieta's home scoreless streak at 52 2/3 innings, four outs shy of Ray Herbert's major league record set with the Chicago White Sox in 1962-63.

Arrieta's streak of consecutive winning decisions is the longest since Jose Contreras of the White Sox won 17 in a row from August 2005 to July 2006, according to STATS. Chicago has won in Arrieta's last 18 starts, a team record.

Cubs catcher David Ross believed some perspective was needed.

"For him to have an off night, and he gave up one (run)," Ross said.

Arrieta's streak of consecutive quality starts ended at 24, two shy of Bob Gibson's record from 1967-68.

"I saw 92 pitches. I saw the Cubs trying to win a World Series. I saw the next five years of his career," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "All that stuff mattered much more than breaking Gibson's record."

Cubs left fielder Kris Bryant left in the fifth after rolling his right ankle while running the bases two innings earlier. The team called it a "mild" sprain, but said Bryant was to undergo an MRI.

After throwing 119 pitches at Cincinnati on April 21 in his second no-hitter in a span of 11 regular-season starts, Arrieta had six days' rest. The Cubs were off Monday, and Wednesday's game was rained out.

Arrieta acknowledged he's "not accustomed" to the extra days off.

Wearing short sleeves on a 45-degree cloudy day with a 12 mph wind at his back, Arrieta had trouble locating his fastball.

He needed 31 pitches to get through the first inning, when Jonathan Villar led off with an opposite-field, broken-bat single over third base. A pair of one-out walks loaded the bases before Chris Carter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out on elevated 94 mph fastballs.

Arrieta initially protested, then agreed with Maddon's call to lift him after five innings.

"The extra off days, the rainout last night, cold weather, extended pitch counts, long first inning, it is the right way to go," Arrieta said.

Ben Zobrist hit a two-run single in the first off Taylor Jungmann (0-4), who gave up five runs, six hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings as his ERA rose to 9.15. He also hit Bryant with two pitches.

"I think right now I'm a little timid," Jungmann said. "That's never been me, but it's obvious when you watch the game. Too much going on in my head and not competing."

Ross hit solo home run onto Waveland Avenue in the second, and Anthony Rizzo and Tommy La Stella added RBI doubles in the third for a 5-0 lead.

Villar had three hits and stole three bases as the Brewers lost to the Cubs for the 14th time in 15 games thanks to suspect pitching.

"There's no success in 11 walks, that's for sure," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We were fortunate to only give up seven runs."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”