MILWAUKEE – The Cubs believe Jake Arrieta will be unstoppable in October.
Anything can happen in a one-game playoff, as the Pittsburgh Pirates found out last year, when Madison Bumgarner threw a complete-game shutout at PNC Park, jumpstarting the San Francisco Giants on the way to their third championship in five seasons.
The World Series MVP threw 52.2 playoff innings on top of the 218.1 innings he accounted for during the regular season, lifting the Giants into a dynasty level.
Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) is in that kind of zone now, and the Cubs can’t picture “Snake” getting nervous or losing focus or hitting a wall after 229 innings – during and beyond Wednesday night’s wild-card game against the Pirates.
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to see another performance like what Bumgarner did – ever,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “That was phenomenal, basically taking the team, putting them on his back and getting every ounce of energy out of him.
“We’ve managed (Arrieta’s) pitch counts on his bullpens. We’ve managed his pitches in his games. We’re very, very aware of all that. We’re talking about a different animal here.”
There’s no doubt Arrieta’s peaking at the right time after closing out his regular season with Friday’s 6-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. He has made 20 consecutive quality starts – including that no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on national television – and his 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break is the lowest in major-league history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Arrieta became the fifth pitcher to notch at least 22 wins – with no more than six losses and an ERA below 2.00 – since the earned run became an official stat in 1913. The others were unanimous Cy Young Award winners during those seasons: Sandy Koufax (1963), Denny McLain (1968), Ron Guidry (1978) and Dwight Gooden (1985).
“The workouts this guy goes through,” Bosio said. “There’s not too many guys who could go in there and walk away without cramping up, (much less) doing it two, three times a week.
“It’s the stretching regimen, (nutrition), the conditioning part of it, the mental side of it and the preparation in video. But all that comes with command of his pitches. You could take any scouting report and throw it out the window if a guy can’t command his pitches.
“That’s what makes Jake so tough. He’s able to locate four pitches on both sides (of the plate on certain days). He even said it after the no-hitter – it was one of those games where he knew exactly where the ball was going. He’s got electric stuff.”
Joe Maddon had David Price when the star lefty won a Cy Young Award with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, but the Cubs manager still hasn’t seen anything like Arrieta’s sustained brilliance.
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“I’ve never seen a year like it,” said Bosio, who played four seasons with Randy Johnson on the Seattle Mariners, including a Cy Young year in 1995.
Like Matt Harvey, Arrieta is a Scott Boras client, but there will be nothing like the innings-limit controversy surrounding the New York Mets. Unlike Harvey, Arrieta is 29 years old, didn’t have Tommy John surgery after the 2013 season and hasn’t shown any warning signs.
“I’ve not seen anything slide backward at all,” Maddon said, “whether it’s command, whether it’s velocity, whether it’s break on the breaking pitches. Furthermore, he’s cooperated so well regarding how to get to this point – only seven (innings) last time, only six this time. There were not a lot of stressful moments.
“The repetition of delivery is there. The stuff is the same as it was two months ago. So for all those reasons, I think he can continue this. It’s really incredible to watch.”