Cubs

Arrieta leads the charge as Cubs keep right on winning

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Arrieta leads the charge as Cubs keep right on winning

At the beginning of the year, Joe Maddon cautioned that with such a young Cubs team, not every win would look like oil paintings.

So on a night when the Cubs committed two errors and made several baserunning gaffes but still found a way to beat the White Sox 6-3, Maddon acknowledged this wasn't exactly a Picasso.

"This is more like paint-by-numbers," he said. "It wasn't our sharpest game, but I'll take it."

Jake Arrieta turned in his 11th straight quality start as the Cubs (67-48) took advantage of several key White Sox (54-60) mistakes in front of 39,579 fans at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday night.

[MORE: Cubs-White Sox could use more Pedro Strop vs. Alexei Ramirez]

Arrieta battled through 6.2 innings for a red-hot Cubs team that has won nine in a row and 15 of 16. He gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and a pair of walks. He also overthrew first base on a routine ground ball, helping gift the Sox their first run.

Despite the win and quality start, he said he wasn't very happy with his performance overall.

"Just was trying to do a little too much," Arrieta said. "As the game went on, I kinda settled down. Made some good pitches, kept the ball on the ground.

"The only thing I'm stuck on right now is that throw in the second inning. That can't happen."

Over his last 11 starts, Arrieta has allowed just 12 earned runs in 80 innings (1.35 ERA) and he's gone 8-1 in that stretch.

Arrieta is now tied for the major-league lead with 14 wins.

"He's extremely good," White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton said. "He's in an upper tier that I haven't seen much at this level, to be honest with you.

"My strikeout [in the third inning], after I put my helmet down, I kind of smiled because I realistically didn't know if I would have done anything different in those circumstances because of how explosive his ball is out of his hand and how he delivers the pitch.

"Hats off to him. We had some chances, but he bears down in situations. He's a heck of a competitor."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs took advantage of several key miscues from the White Sox in the field, pushing across solo runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings before breaking it open with three two-out runs in the seventh after Alexei Ramirez's throwing error.

Maddon praised his team's preparation, effort and intensity after the game, saying the Cubs are playing "playoff-caliber baseball."

"I think when we come to the ballpark, you get to the point where you expect to win, regardless of who you're playing," Maddon said. "That's not to denegrate the other side whatsoever.

"It could be the '27 Yankees. When you're playing with that kind of confidence, you feel like something good is gonna happen, somehow, some way. You gotta ride that wave as long as you possibly can."

The rookies - Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler - stole the show offensively again, combining for seven hits, three RBI and four runs.

The Cubs are riding their longest winning streak since June 2008.

"We know we're on a good run," Arrieta said. "I don't think we necessarily know how many in a row it is, we just know we're winning. That's the most important thing.

"We're not going to win them all, but if we keep playing the way we are, we're gonna be in a good spot."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."