Cubs

Jake Arrieta not putting added pressure on himself as Cubs look to force Game 7

Jake Arrieta not putting added pressure on himself as Cubs look to force Game 7

Jake Arrieta reflexively figured the temperature for Game 6 of the World Series Tuesday night at Progressive Field would be cold, as was the case for his frigid Game 2 start last week. 

In maybe the biggest surprise of the World Series, though, Arrieta might be pitching in 70-degree November temperatures on the shores of Lake Erie when he take the mound for the biggest start of his career. 

Arrieta allowed one run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts in the Cubs’ 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2, He was effectively wild — only 55 of his 98 pitches were strikes (56 percent) — but received the most run support of any Cubs starter in the World Series. 

Improving on that efficiency is one of Arrieta’s main focuses heading into Tuesday night. 

“It's just like any other game where you feel comfortable with the game plan and you go out there to do your best to follow through on the execution,” Arrieta said. “So that's really the only thing that I'll be thinking about as Tuesday approaches, is just trying to be efficient. Trying to be as good as I can about moving the ball in and out, up and down and changing speeds and trying to keep those guys off balance.

Getting more than 5 2/3 innings out of Arrieta could be key if the Cubs force an all-hands-on-deck Game 7, in which the best-case is the Cubs’ bullpen being as fresh as possible. But Arrieta only threw six or more innings once in his five September starts, though the Cubs’ plan to keep him fresh from the start of spring training could pay off in his final game of the 2016 season. 

“We attempted to do that from day one,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I had that conversation with Jake in spring training in the food room in Mesa the first time I saw him. We talked and I brought it right up immediately. So we've been on the same page, taking him out of the games a little bit sooner.”

Arrieta has thrown 214 innings between the regular season and playoffs in 2016, a year after he logged 248 2/3 innings during the Cubs’ run to the National League Championship Series. But not only has Arrieta’s workload been lessened this year, the 98 pitches he threw in Game 2 were relatively stress-free in that 5-1 win. That should help him, too, heading into a start in which every pitch he throws will be a high leverage one, given the Cubs’ Game 3 struggles against Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin. 

“We go out there and we focus on executing and trying to limit the opponent to as few runs as possible, regardless of how many we score,” Arrieta said. “That's the intent. That's the mindset there is I have to take care of my end of the bargain to the best of my ability, and I know that our offense is doing the exact same thing.”

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

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USA TODAY

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

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NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, we get to know Kelly Crull. Kelly tells Luke Stuckmeyer about her love of bowling growing up, why she became a reporter and some of her favorite moments covering the Cubs.

01:00 Kelly's love of tennis at an early age

04:00 Following basketball while growing up in Indiana

06:00 Possible tennis showdown between Kelly and Megan Mawicke

09:30 Kelly talks about working in London & interviewing J.K. Rowling

14:00 When did she decide to become a reporter?

15:00 What is her favorite food?

16:00 Kelly's go-to karaoke song

18:00 Kelly's favorite NBA story (it involves Kevin Durant)

21:00 Favorite moments covering the Cubs

24:00 Dealing with the weather at Wrigley Field

28:00 Something we don't know about Kelly

31:00 What does Kelly enjoy watching at home the most?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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