Jake Arrieta is human and not some cyborg sent to destroy the St. Louis Cardinals. But just remember the T-shirt cut into a tank top to show off his muscles: “We Are Good.”
The Cubs still pounded the Cardinals during Monday’s 8-6 victory at Wrigley Field — even with Arrieta off his game in Game 3 and not inviting comparisons to Bob Gibson or Madison Bumgarner.
That underlines why the Cubs are now in position to end this on Tuesday and clinch their first playoff series ever at Clark and Addison, where they’ve been playing for 100 years.
“It was a huge team win,” Arrieta said. “Special night.”
This became a missed opportunity for a proud Cardinals team that found a way to beat Clayton Kershaw twice in last year’s National League Division Series, eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in only four games.
The Cubs and Cardinals understood this would be a pivot point in a best-of-five matchup between two iconic rivals, with Arrieta becoming a breakout star in October and giving this young team so much confidence.
“You know how tough baseball is,” second baseman Starlin Castro said. “That guy — he does a lot for us. All the time. We score like one run and he picks us up. Today, we scored a lot of runs for him. We got his back.”
Manager Joe Maddon — who likes to say Arrieta’s pitch count goes to infinity — took the ball from his No. 1 starter after 97 pitches. Jason Heyward reached out and drove a curveball out to left field for a two-run homer that inning and Arrieta just hit Brandon Moss with a pitch, leaving a runner on with two outs in the sixth, ending his unbelievable run of 21 consecutive quality starts.
“I got out of rhythm a little bit,” Arrieta said. “It’s a different environment in the playoffs. You have to control the emotions and try and conserve energy when you have the ability to do so. It’s a learning process.
“They made it tough. They made me battle. They made me work for it.”
Arrieta’s final line: Four runs on five hits and two walks plus nine strikeouts, still earning the victory against baseball’s best team during the regular season.
Arrieta had given up four runs total since the middle of August, a brilliant run of 10 starts that included a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium and a complete-game shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in that wild-card game.
It transformed Arrieta into a Cy Young Award frontrunner and a huge national story. Not bad for someone who put up a 5.46 ERA across parts of four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles before getting traded to the Cubs in July 2013.
“He’s human,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “This is gonna happen. I’m actually happy that it happened, because I realize that he’s human. I was a little concerned about it.”
Arrieta looked out of sync, leading off the fourth inning by walking Stephen Piscotty (and almost drilling his helmet) and Matt Holliday (on four pitches). A crowd of 42,411 fell silent when Jhonny Peralta doubled off the ivy in left field, scoring Piscotty to tie the game, but Cubs fans didn’t need to panic. A relentless lineup just kept coming and coming, setting a postseason record with six home runs and turning into a worst nightmare for Cardinals fans.
“These are two big boys duking it out,” Arrieta said. “It’s like a heavyweight fight. The Cardinals won 100 games in the regular season. We had 97 (wins). We can both really play. It’s pretty much going to come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes.”