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.”