Outside of October, Jake Arrieta probably couldn’t have found a bigger and better stage than “Sunday Night Baseball” at Dodger Stadium to show the country he’s one of the game’s best pitchers. Period.
“If you don’t know about me by now, you better ask somebody,” Arrieta said Monday at Wrigley Field, replaying his no-hitter from the night before while wearing his Cubs hat backwards and a “We Are Good” tank top.
More than two dozen reporters squeezed into the dungeon, with a row of at least six TV cameras lined up in the middle of the interview room for a weeknight game against the Cincinnati Reds.
So much for the big bounce after Arrieta’s no-hitter and Joe Maddon’s pajama-themed overnight flight from Los Angeles. The buzz started to wear off during this ugly 13-6 loss to a last-place team.
“It didn’t start that good,” Maddon said. “The middle part of the book was actually a pretty good read and then eventually it became a nasty ending.”
Reinforcements are coming on Tuesday with outfielder Austin Jackson (acquired from the Seattle Mariners) and the first wave of September call-ups: power-hitting infielder Javier Baez; designated runner Quintin Berry; lefty Tsuyoshi Wada; and right-hander Trevor Cahill. (The Berry and Cahill moves will force the Cubs to make changes to their 40-man roster.)
To get to a wild-card game, the Cubs will need more out of Kyle Hendricks, Dan Haren and Jason Hammel, the pitchers lined up for this three-game series against the Reds (54-76). If not, the cumulative effect will damage the bullpen and put even more pressure on a young lineup that needs some cover.
Hendricks lasted five innings and gave up three runs and has now gone 1-for-9 in quality starts since the All-Star break. Haren has a 6.31 ERA in five starts since the Cubs acquired him from the Miami Marlins at the July 31 trade deadline. Hammel hasn’t finished the seventh inning since the Fourth of July and put up a 4.88 ERA in August.
“I wouldn’t say letdown,” Hendricks said. “It’s just hard. They got in about 5, 6 in the morning. You don’t want to make excuses. But to turn around like that and come play this night game, it’s tough to do.
“Not that that was the reason for it out there tonight. But it was going to be a tough one for us.”
Especially when dominant reliever Justin Grimm gives up two out-of-character two-run homers to Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall in the sixth inning. And Starlin Castro gets booed after committing three errors at second base. And Travis Wood and James Russell were charged with six unearned runs in the ninth inning.
“It was a really bad night for me and the team,” Castro said. “Just come back tomorrow and keep our head up and try to make every play.”
The Cubs have 13 games against the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in September. The best team in baseball leads the Cubs by 10 1/2 games in the division. The Cubs trail the Pirates by 5 1/2 games for home-field advantage in the wild-card game.
At 18 games over .500, the Cubs could go 16-16 the rest of the way and still finish with 90 wins. No matter what, this team should be relevant until at least Game 162.
“September provides its own energy,” Maddon said. “I really believe that, man. The weather’s going to start cooling off. You look in the paper, you see where you sit in the standings. You’re playing pretty good baseball. You have a shot to go to the dance. All that kind of good stuff.
“You really come to the ballpark (and) any kind of bumps, bruises, fatigue is lessened. I’ve always felt that way. I think our young guys are going to find that out for the first time.”