PITTSBURGH – Jake Arrieta might be the best pitcher on the planet at this moment. But when reporters surrounded his locker late Wednesday night inside PNC Park’s visiting clubhouse, he immediately focused on the mistake.
“Inexcusable,” Arrieta said.
The Cubs had just celebrated a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that lasted 12 innings, but Arrieta understood it didn’t need to get to that point, especially when he’s on a roll like this (13-1 with a 1.01 ERA in 17 straight quality starts).
Arrieta is wired this way, probably part of the reason why he spent parts of four seasons on the Triple-A level before finally blossoming with that trade from the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.
Who knows how it would have played out, but Arrieta might have cost himself his 20th win when he fielded a routine groundball back to the pitcher’s mound, sort of hopped and airmailed a throw that went over Anthony Rizzo’s head and off the top of the first baseman’s glove. That throwing error with two outs in the sixth inning created an unearned run for the Pirates.
“That’s a play that he should make 101-out-of-100 times,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It was uncharacteristic, and he knows that. Listen, look at his numbers. My guess is Bob Gibson-esque from what I’ve been hearing, and that’s pretty strong company.
“So it’s hard to be overtly critical right now. But that’s something he knows he can do – (something) he can actually fix. It’s within his control.”
Arrieta has a 0.95 ERA since the All-Star break, which would be the second-lowest ERA in the second half in major-league history. In four starts against the Pirates this year, he’s given up three earned runs in 29 innings.
The Cubs understand they will have little margin for error in October. Jon Lester might have had a breakthrough moment with his throwing issues by picking off Starling Marte during Tuesday night’s complete-game victory at PNC Park. That’s something potential playoff opponents will have to notice.
Arrieta hasn’t excelled at controlling the running game, either, ranking fourth in the majors with 25 stolen bases against him. Lester leads that category (43) by a wide margin. It’s one factor that has the Cubs leaning toward starting Arrieta in a one-game playoff.
Ultimately, that’s like the dominant NFL defense that gives up chunks of yardage but won’t surrender many points. And Arrieta has no problems with facing the Pirates again on Oct. 7 in the National League’s wild-card game.
“That’s fine,” Arrieta said. “I’ll be ready.”