Cubs rebound behind another dominant outing from Jake Arrieta

Cubs rebound behind another dominant outing from Jake Arrieta

Let's paint the scene: It's July 25, 2015 and Jake Arrieta is one pitch away from getting out of the top of the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Ryan Howard has other ideas, however, and sends an Arrieta offering into the Wrigley Field bleachers for a three-run homer.

Most people may remember that as the day Cole Hamels no-hit the Cubs, but it was also the last time Arrieta gave up a run at Wrigley Field in the regular season.

Arrieta dazzled Saturday, tossing eight shutout innings as the Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 6-2 in front of 41,702 fans at Wrigley Field.

The reigning National League Cy Young winner surrendered just five hits and one walk while striking out eight against a lineup that came into the game leading Major League Baseball in homers, total bases, average and OPS. 

"He's the reigning Cy Young for a reason," said David Ross, who caught Arrieta Saturday. "He's really good. Made great pitches. Great fastball command. Threw the ball really well. It's typical Jake. ... It's a really good lineup over there and he made it look easy."

His scoreless streak at home now sits at 48.2 innings, which is the longest streak in Wrigley Field history and longest around Major League Baseball since 1974.

The mind-boggling stats just keep rolling from there:

–It was the 23rd straight quality start Arrieta has turned in, the longest such streak since Bob Gibson three an MLB-record 26 straight quality starts from 1967-68.

–The Cubs have won 16 straight Arrieta decisions, the longest streak in franchise history. In those 16 games, the Cubs have outscored their opponents 81-20.

–Arrieta now has a 1.94 career ERA at Wrigley Field (227.2 IP), the lowest mark in Cubs history.

–The outing lowered Arrieta's season ERA to 1.23 and WHIP to 0.77 over the first three starts of 2016. He also boasts a ridiculous 20:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. For perspective, in his Cy Young season last year, Arrieta had a 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 4.92 K:BB ratio.

"He is impressive," Ross said. "I think we're a little spoiled around here because you come to expect greatness out of him and all our staff."

Arrieta looked like he could go the distance Saturday, rolling a double play ball immediately after walking the leadoff hitter in the eighth inning and then getting a fly out to center on his 100th pitch of the afternoon. But manager Joe Maddon made the call to let Arrieta hit for himself in the bottom half of the eighth inning and then go with Travis Wood and Pedro Strop to close out the game in the ninth.

It's all part of the organization-wide plan to make sure to save some bullets in Arrieta's right arm for late in the season as the Cubs hope to make a run deep into October.

Regardless of all the accolades and records, Arrieta has maintained his tireless work ethic between starts.

In a way, it's not just that he's picked up where he left off in that unbelievable second half. He's almost outdoing himself.

"This game will humble you and it can do it in a heartbeat," Arrieta said. "Remaining humble and working hard, regardless of your success and failures is the most important way to approach it. Not taking anything for granted.

"That's why I try and work the way I do between starts, to prepare as well as I can. When I take the mound, that's the fun part. Just kinda let everything fly and let the results speak for themselves."

After looking lackadaisical at the plate and in the field Friday, the Cubs went out and proved manager Joe Maddon right - 24 hours really does make a huge difference.

The Cubs mashed on their way to support their ace, hitting three home runs - back-to-back solo shots on back-to-back pitches by Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler in the fourth inning and then a two-out, three-run blast by Dexter Fowler in the seventh inning.

Javier Baez made his season debut, starting - and playing stellar defense - at second base while also collecting two hits, scoring a run and striking out twice.

But the story of the day was all Arrieta, who continues to astonish the baseball world.

If Ross had to step into the box against Arrieta, how would he approach the at-bat?

"You're asking the wrong guy," Ross said. "I don't know what I'd do. Get in the box and pray?"

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season


Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.