At the time of his last start, Jake Arrieta was the most consistent starter in a struggling Cubs rotation.
When he returned from the 10-day injured list Friday, he continued his strong start to the season — this time in a rotation that has turned things around in a big way in May.
“Jake did a great job,” manager David Ross said postgame.
Arrieta (cut on right thumb) came off the IL on Friday and tossed six strong innings in the Cubs’ 4-2 win over Detroit. The right-hander allowed just four hits — two singles and a pair of solo home runs — before exiting.
It’s no secret the Cubs rotation struggled in April. They had the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.81) and averaged 4.71 innings per outing. Only the Pirates averaged fewer among NL clubs.
Arrieta was rock solid for most of the month, tallying a 2.57 ERA through five outings, including three quality starts. But the cut on his thumb affected him in his last start, April 30 against Cincinnati, later landing him on the injured list.
Now past the ailment, he looked like the guy he was for much of April.
“The thumb really wasn't an issue,” Arrieta said after Friday's outing. “I was a little stale, though. I threw a lot of good sinkers and induced quite a bit of weak contact. They were they were swinging early and often, which is a good sign.”
Ross noted he strongly considered sending Arrieta back out for the seventh inning. But coming off an off day and with Arrieta allowing back-to-back solo homers in the sixth, the Cubs manager said it made more sense to go to his rested bullpen in the seventh.
The bullpen threw three shutout innings to get Arrieta his fourth win of the season. Friday also was his fourth quality start in seven tries.
Arrieta has more than a quarter of the Cubs’ 11 quality starts this season. However, things have been pointing in the right direction this month. The rotation has a 3.56 ERA through 11 games, and it’s not just a function of the schedule.
Kyle Hendricks, Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson out-pitched Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler in a three-game sweep of the Dodgers last week. In fact, Hendricks threw a seven-inning complete game against Los Angeles, his longest start of the season.
Zach Davies, after logging a 9.47 ERA in April, has allowed two earned runs in three starts this month — including a seven-inning, one-run outing against Pittsburgh last week.
“It is great to see,” Arrieta said of the rotation’s success to start the month. “Guys are going to go through their struggles and it's going to happen again.
“We're going to get another 20-plus starts and we'll have our hiccups here and there. But over the course of the season, things will even out.
“This group of guys will throw the ball consistently very well.”
So far, so good in May.