PITTSBURGH — During the middle of this dream season, a reporter asked Jake Arrieta why he even bothers to go on social media: “I like to talk s--- to people.”
Hey, why stop now? The Cubs kept telling everyone “#WeAreGood,” and they wound up with 97 wins and the third-best record in baseball.
Arrieta trolled Pittsburgh Pirates fans on Twitter, saying he wanted it “LOUD” on Wednesday night at PNC Park and telling them the blackout atmosphere “doesn’t matter” in the National League wild-card game.
David. Bring out all the reinforcements. I need it LOUD. https://t.co/vxhbjNVqBm
— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) October 5, 2015
Whatever helps keep your hope alive, just know, it doesn't matter. @Cubs https://t.co/bJDN1wP0tS
— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) October 4, 2015
The back-and-forth responses led to the first question on Tuesday afternoon during Arrieta’s news conference.
“It’s a big part of the fan-player interaction,” Arrieta said calmly, sitting on stage inside the interview room. “It’s all in good fun. I don’t mean anything negative towards anybody. It’s kind of the buildup to the game. You’ve got two very passionate fan bases.
“It is all in good fun. There’s nothing meant in a negative aspect there. I think it’s just kind of a unique way to start interaction within the fan bases.”
Arrieta is such a good talker and a thoughtful player that it doesn’t sound like bulletin-board material when he says things so matter-of-factly.
Arrieta has definitely backed it up this year, leading the majors with 22 wins, finishing with the lowest ERA (0.75) after the All-Star break in big-league history and possibly winning a Cy Young Award.
The Pirates won 98 games and earned their third straight postseason appearance, but they managed to score only three earned runs in 36 innings against Arrieta, who’s never thrown a playoff pitch before.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s much different,” Arrieta said. “It’s the same preparation. It’s a team that I am comfortable with analyzing, scouting and pitching against. It’s an extremely balanced group of guys in that order who can make a lot of things happen. And I feel confident that I can neutralize a lot of their power, a lot of their speed guys, with different sequences.
“You know, I intend to have some pretty good success tomorrow.”
[MORE CUBS: How the Cubs built a World Series contender]
It’s that kind of confidence that propelled Arrieta from being a Triple-A-ish guy with the Baltimore Orioles to the hottest pitcher on the planet.
“From Day 1, I knew I could pitch like this my whole career,” Arrieta said. “I did it in college. I did it in the minor leagues. I did it in the big leagues, at times. I knew there were some adjustments in there — mentally and physically — that needed to be made.
“I knew once I was able to kind of get over that hump that things would eventually work themselves out. The work ethic was there. I had to cut some things out. I was trying to do too much. Just so many variables in there that needed to be rearranged, some taken out.
“But, yeah, I knew that I would be here one day.”