Jake Arrieta on point as Cubs cruise past Twins


Jake Arrieta on point as Cubs cruise past Twins

MINNEAPOLIS - It looks like it's time to start feeling bad for teams that have to face both Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in the same series.

Arrieta followed up Lester's stellar start Saturday with one of his own Sunday afternoon, tossing a complete game shutout as the Cubs cruised to an 8-0 victory over the Twins in front of 40,273 fans at Target Field.

Arrieta struck out seven and allowed just four hits. This came after Lester surrendered one run in 6.1 innings Saturday.

A lone run in 15.1 innings from the starters is a heck of a way to close out a series against a Twins team that's been playing good baseball lately.

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"After you lose the first game here, you go: 'Who's pitching tomorrow for us? Oh, good.' And then 'Who's pitching for us the next game? Oh, good,'" Maddon said of the Cubs trotting out Lester and Arrieta back-to-back. "So you think that way and you're feeling in a pretty good position to come back and win the series - which we did - and both guys set the tone."

The day after Maddon pulled Lester with one out and nobody on in the seventh inning, Arrieta was allowed to finish the game despite throwing 110 pitches through the first eight innings.

"He was on a short leash at the end right there," Maddon said. "I thought his stuff was holding and actually getting better. And I did not want to prevent him from doing that, for a couple reasons - 1) He's one of the most well-conditioned guys on the team and 2) When you do something like that, I think it can lead in a positive way into your next performance.

"Now, if he was in a lot of high-stress moments, it would have been a different story. But he was not. I thought all the indicators, factors and needls were pointing in the right direction to let him finish."

Dexter Fowler provided the big blast for the Cubs on offense with a grand slam to cap off a six-run eighth inning.

Kyle Schwarber - playing in his last game before heading back down to the minors - drove home two runs on a bases-loaded single at the beginning of the eighth.

"We're tough to beat when we play good defense and we pitch," Arrieta said. "Obviously our lineup is going to score runs. That was a fun game."

Starlin Castro - who had three hits on the afternoon - knocked in Anthony Rizzo for the Cubs' first run in the third inning and Rizzo added a solo blast in the fifth.

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The Cubs collected 12 hits and five walks as a team, abusing the Minnesota bullpen to the tune of six runs on six hits and a pair of free passes in four innings.

But the day belonged to Arrieta.

"He stole the show today," Rizzo said. "Fun to play behind him when he's got all his stuff going. Kinda grinded through the first [inning] a little bit, but then he just settled in and [then] it's just time to sit back and enjoy the show."


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


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.”