CINCINNATI – Jake Arrieta has meant so much to the Cubs that he should be in the National League MVP discussion and not just a Cy Young Award frontrunner.
With a questionable rotation and as many as four rookies in the everyday lineup, the Cubs have won 75 percent of Arrieta’s starts (24-8), making the leap from fringe wild-card team to 94-win contender during his second-half transformation.
Arrieta (21-6, 1.82 ERA) will get the chance to make a final impression on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters on Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park (7:10 p.m./CSN).
Arrieta has made 19 consecutive quality starts, going 15-1 with a 0.89 ERA. He’s hit as many homers (two) as he’s given up (two) during that stretch. His 0.80 ERA since the All-Star break would be the lowest in major-league history.
Arrieta – a great talker and a deep thinker – might be preparing his acceptance speech if not for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their 1-2 punch.
Zack Greinke is 18-3 and leads the majors in ERA (1.68) and WHIP (0.85). Clayton Kershaw (16-7, 2.16 ERA) – the reigning Cy Young/MVP winner – leads the majors in innings (229) and strikeouts (294).
“I know what (Greinke’s) doing,” Arrieta said. “He’s pitched at a super-high level his whole career. The same thing with Kershaw. It’s fun to see, because you have such a great deal of respect for Kershaw and Greinke. You understand how difficult it is to do what they’ve done for such a long period of time. It’s been a great year for those guys, absolutely.”
This will be a final tune-up for Arrieta before next week’s wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the Cubs planning to limit their ace to around 85 or 95 pitches before unleashing him in the playoffs.
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Whatever happens, Greinke and Kershaw will get the chance to answer, making their final starts on Saturday and Sunday against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium, with a division title already won.
And Arrieta is envisioning a much bigger prize – a World Series ring.
“The individual awards are nice,” Arrieta said. “But when you’re a part of a group of guys like this, and you’re able to win for the team and perform at a high level to propel your team forward (into) a playoff environment, that’s more meaningful to me, because that’s an experience that we’ll all receive together as a group.
“Those types of things are rare. Not a lot of people get to be in an environment like this even once in their career. So that’s what I want all of us to take advantage of and really, really focus on.”