Cubs

Jake Arrieta refuses to cave in, sets tone for Cubs

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Jake Arrieta refuses to cave in, sets tone for Cubs

CINCINNATI — Two years ago, Jake Arrieta may not have made it out of the fifth inning of Sunday's Cubs-Reds game.

But Arrieta has come a long way in the last couple seasons, maturing so much as a pitcher that he has become a frontline arm for the Cubs with a bulldog mentality each time out.

He showed that again Sunday, working around several jams and limiting the damage to just two runs in a 5-2 Cubs victory.

Arrieta looked like he was in cruise control early, setting down the first 11 in a row before the wheels started to come off. Reds third baseman Todd Frazier looped a home run down the left field line and Arrieta gave up back-to-back hits immediately after.

[MORE: Cubs see things starting to come together after sweep of Reds]

The 29-year-old righty escaped that jam, only to find himself in a bases loaded, no-out situation to start the fifth. But once again, he limited the damage, giving up just one run on a Billy Hamilton groundout.

"I sped up a little bit, got out of my rhythm," Arrieta said. "A little uncharacteristic there. But as things got a little more tense there, my emphasis was on not making a mistake. Damage control and making pitches to avoid the big inning.

"When things like that happen, a walk here or there to load the bases really wasn't my concern. My concern was limiting hard-hit balls."

That sounds like a guy who has developed a true understanding of pitching. It's another sign that Arrieta has figured it all out since Baltimore, where he failed to live up to high expectations as a top pitching prospect with the Orioles.

Arrieta is now 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA and 0.94 WHIP on the season. Since joining the Cubs' rotation in late 2013, he is 17-8 with a 2.72 ERA in 38 starts.

Given the way Sunday's outing started, Arrieta admitted he wasn't happy with the result overall, as he hoped to be able to pitch into the eighth inning. 

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But he'll take the win as the Cubs cruised to a 4-2 road trip.

"Jake had great stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "After the home run, it just seemed like he was off command-wise a little bit. But his stuff was still good.

"I really appreciate fighting through some tough moments. That's what you talk about when you say a guy doesn't cave in. And that matters, because you're not going to have your best everything every night.

"You've got to be able to win with less than your best, and he did. And that's really a tribute to him and his work and his mental focus, etc."

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

The Cubs made the playoffs four times in five seasons under Joe Maddon, receiving contributions across the diamond from All-Stars and role players alike.

Some players, of course, had bigger impacts for Maddon's Cubs, even in smaller sample sizes. Jesse Chavez and Cole Hamels weren't Cubs for long, but the two 2018 trade deadline pickups helped the North Siders reach the postseason for a fourth straight year.

These are the top 25 players by WAR (wins above replacement) from the Maddon era, according to Baseball Reference.

Top 25 Cubs, according to WAR, from 2015-19

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How Ian Happ promotes mental health and other things to know about Cubs outfielder

How Ian Happ promotes mental health and other things to know about Cubs outfielder

It's kind of hard to believe 2020 is only Ian Happ's fourth season in the big leagues. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene with 24 home runs in 2017, and since has been through trials and tribulations, getting demoted to the minor leagues in 2019.

Whenever the 2020 season kicks off, Happ is in line for the starting center field job. Until then, here's a few things to know about him.

1. Happ attended University of Cincinnati from 2012-15, where he studied finance. He was a star on the field (2015 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year) and an exemplary student in the classroom (3.68 GPA, 2015 Academic All-American).

2. Happ is an avid golfer and is a 2 handicap, according to Golf Digest. He competed in the Straight Down Fall Classic in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the last two Novembers.

3. Happ serves as an honorary ambassador for First Tee Greater Chicago, which strives to introduce the game of golf to young people. The organization raised $23,000 at a January fundraiser Happ participated in.

4. In 2019, Happ and artist Patrick Vale started “Through My Eyes” — a three-piece artwork series capturing Wrigley Field from different perspectives. Proceeds go to the Happ Family Charitable Fund, which promotes mental health and wellness.

Happ lost his father, Keith, to brain cancer in 2015.

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