Jake Arrieta not putting added pressure on himself as Cubs look to force Game 7

Jake Arrieta not putting added pressure on himself as Cubs look to force Game 7

Jake Arrieta reflexively figured the temperature for Game 6 of the World Series Tuesday night at Progressive Field would be cold, as was the case for his frigid Game 2 start last week. 

In maybe the biggest surprise of the World Series, though, Arrieta might be pitching in 70-degree November temperatures on the shores of Lake Erie when he take the mound for the biggest start of his career. 

Arrieta allowed one run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts in the Cubs’ 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2, He was effectively wild — only 55 of his 98 pitches were strikes (56 percent) — but received the most run support of any Cubs starter in the World Series. 

Improving on that efficiency is one of Arrieta’s main focuses heading into Tuesday night. 

“It's just like any other game where you feel comfortable with the game plan and you go out there to do your best to follow through on the execution,” Arrieta said. “So that's really the only thing that I'll be thinking about as Tuesday approaches, is just trying to be efficient. Trying to be as good as I can about moving the ball in and out, up and down and changing speeds and trying to keep those guys off balance.

Getting more than 5 2/3 innings out of Arrieta could be key if the Cubs force an all-hands-on-deck Game 7, in which the best-case is the Cubs’ bullpen being as fresh as possible. But Arrieta only threw six or more innings once in his five September starts, though the Cubs’ plan to keep him fresh from the start of spring training could pay off in his final game of the 2016 season. 

“We attempted to do that from day one,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I had that conversation with Jake in spring training in the food room in Mesa the first time I saw him. We talked and I brought it right up immediately. So we've been on the same page, taking him out of the games a little bit sooner.”

Arrieta has thrown 214 innings between the regular season and playoffs in 2016, a year after he logged 248 2/3 innings during the Cubs’ run to the National League Championship Series. But not only has Arrieta’s workload been lessened this year, the 98 pitches he threw in Game 2 were relatively stress-free in that 5-1 win. That should help him, too, heading into a start in which every pitch he throws will be a high leverage one, given the Cubs’ Game 3 struggles against Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin. 

“We go out there and we focus on executing and trying to limit the opponent to as few runs as possible, regardless of how many we score,” Arrieta said. “That's the intent. That's the mindset there is I have to take care of my end of the bargain to the best of my ability, and I know that our offense is doing the exact same thing.”

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants