NEW YORK – Either the Cubs are that much closer to building a pitching staff for October, or the New York Mets are that far away from putting together a playoff-caliber lineup.
Whatever big-picture theories you attached to these two rebuilding teams made for MLB Trade Rumors, the Cubs left Citi Field after Thursday afternoon’s 6-1 victory feeling pretty, pretty good about themselves.
New York’s young guns get all the hype, but Cubs pitchers shut down the Mets during this three-game sweep, allowing only one run across 29 innings. With Jake Arrieta firing 97 mph fastballs – and breaking stuff that manager Joe Maddon said “almost looks like a Wiffle Ball” – the Cubs finished off a 7-0 season sweep of the now .500 Mets.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
“We can pitch with anybody,” said Arrieta, who gave up one run in eight innings, finishing with seven strikeouts and zero walks. “We can swing the bats. And our defense can play lights-out. We just have to bring that night in, night out.
“The only thing we needed to do is use this series for positive reinforcement, letting everybody in here know that we can beat anybody.”
The Cubs now return to Wrigley Field for what should be a rocking 10-game homestand that leads into the All-Star break, facing the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and crosstown White Sox.
The Cubs (42-35) are a third-place team with major issues when it comes to the Cardinals, but they bounced back after getting swept last weekend at Busch Stadium (with some help from Simon the Magician).
“I never doubt the resolve of our guys,” Maddon said. “We just had a tough time in St. Louis.”
Maddon blasted Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” in his office after the game, a tribute to Jonathan Herrera. The utility guy filled in for third baseman Kris Bryant and drove in three runs with a sacrifice bunt and a homer off Jacob deGrom, the National League’s Rookie of the Year last season.
Arrieta (8-5, 2.80 ERA) had been a talented-but-inconsistent pitcher until that change-of-scenery trade with the Baltimore Orioles, which happened exactly two years ago (July 2, 2013), flipping rental starter Scott Feldman and also adding Pedro Strop to the bullpen mix.
The Cubs have transformed from definite sellers to potential buyers, while Arrieta has moved from the Triple-A bubble toward the top of this rotation. The differences are impossible to miss.
“It’s night and day,” Arrieta said, “both individually and as a team. We’ve grown. Our young players are taking that next step forward. We have added some young players who are extremely dynamic and can do a lot of great things on the field.
“It’s just my job to anchor things and be a guy every five days that our team knows can get us a ‘W.’ That’s what I plan to do.”