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.
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."
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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."