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.”

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and had only made it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start." 

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

jon_lester_july_20th.jpg
USA TODAY

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and had only made it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."