Less Than Jake: Cubs Win Despite Arrieta Not Pitching Like Himself

Quick, when was the last time Jake Arrieta allowed 4 earned runs in a game? I can’t hear you, but if you just blurted out June 16th, 2015, you win! Yes, it’s been almost a full calendar year since the invincible starter appeared even mildly vincible. And yet, despite allowing the Cardinals to score in 3 of the 5 innings he pitched Wednesday, Arrieta was backed by 9 runs en route to a series win over their division rivals.

Showy? Shiny? Shady? Wait, I’ve got it…shaky. Yep, that’s gotta be it.

Whatever adjective you choose, the Cubs ace was less than sharp. Well, for him. I don’t know what’s more unexpected, that he gave up four(!) runs or that he only struck out four(!) batters. What really matters is the the final tally, and a 9-8 win means that Arrieta is 9-0 in 10 starts this season and the Cubs are 23-0 — tying a record set by Kris Medlen and the Braves — in the 10 months when he takes the bump.

I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I could find some meatballs using this start as evidence that Arrieta has gotten off the juice and is now about to fall off precipitously. I use it to say that the dude is so insanely good that allowing four runs in a game makes you question his mortality. It also makes you question exactly how he can be beaten. After all, he’s backed by a team that can get him a win even when he’s shity. Or is it shady? Whatever.

While it’s impossible to deny just how great Arrieta has been over the last season-plus, Cards manager Mike Matheny did his best to downplay his rival’s performance.

“We acknowledge he’s a good pitcher, has had a good start,” Matheny admitted after the game Wednesday. “To give too much credit [is to] walk up there defeated.”

It’s okay, Mike, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to give Arrieta any more credit than the Cy Young award and pretty much every pundit this side of Stephen A. Smith hasn’t already. Unless, of course, you want to credit him with another win.

Unlike so many dominant performances of the past, however, this probably isn’t a win Arrieta would be comfortable taking credit for. Funny thing is, he said he actually felt pretty good about his stuff and and his command heading into and during the game.

“I came out and felt really good,” Arrieta explained in the aftermath of his worst outing of the season. “My timing was as good as it’s been all year. They put some good swings on some pitches. The cutter down to Randal Grichuk that he hit out in the second wasn’t a bad pitch. He put a good swing on it. Same thing with Matt Adams. I had a manageable pitch count to pitch in the game a little longer, but I got extended in the fifth.”

Compare that to his assessment of the two no-hitters he’s thrown since his last loss, which he said felt a little sloppy at times.

“That’s baseball,” Arrieta said of the incongruous results. “You can go out and give up one run and get the loss. We’ll ride it out and see where it goes. The way we’re swinging the bats and the way I’m capable of throwing for an extended period, I think we can keep it going a little longer.”

I don’t know how much longer this run of his will last, but I feel pretty good about a guy who routinely wins despite being off his game leading the best rotation in baseball.

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