The complaint department is really closed this evening, because short of the Cubs throwing a perfect game or no-hitter, that was an afternoon about as close to a perfectly-played game that I've seen from the Cubs this year, or in fact, just about any recent season.
- Jake Arrieta threw seven dominant innings, and
- ... also laid down a perfect safety-squeeze bunt.
- Cubs hitters worked counts and drew six walks, and
- ... then took advantage with timely hits (2-for-6 with RISP).
- The weather was perfect, with cloudless skies, pleasant temperatures and light winds, and
- ... the whole thing finished in a snappy two hours, 38 minutes.
Apart from the Cubs actually being in contention when a win like this happens, you couldn't really ask for more. Oh, and it being against the Cardinals, who need every win they can get for their own playoff hopes -- even sweeter.
I could stop here, because this game was almost surely the best one played at Wrigley Field by the Cubs this year, and one of the best they played anywhere. But let's look in more detail at some of the good things that happened.
Jake Arrieta... man, this guy looks like a keeper. He's shown, in his two Cub starts, the potential he always had as an Orioles prospect. Maybe he's the classic "change of scenery" guy. He had Cardinals hitters off-balance all afternoon, and, if he'd have been able to come up with a sharp comebacker off the bat of Carlos Beltran in the second inning, would have taken a no-hitter into the seventh, when he gave up the only other St. Louis hit of the afternoon, a double that stuck in the ivy by Beltran. Just three Cardinals runners made it to third base.
Arrieta struck out seven, four of them called, and probably could have thrown the eighth inning, since he had thrown just 94 pitches through seven. I don't have any argument with having James Russell and Blake Parker get an inning of work each; Parker had to struggle through a 12-pitch at-bat from Jon Jay, who kept fouling off pitches, but other than that, Parker and Russell did just fine.
The first three Cubs of the game walked; this is also a really good sign. David DeJesus, Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo all worked the count well; Nate Schierholtz singled in two runs and after a double play, Donnie Murphy singled in another one. The Cubs got good production in scoring their other four runs, especially in the sixth, with Murphy reaching on a hit-by-pitch, and after Darwin Barney doubled him in and took third on the throw, Arrieta executed his squeeze, one of the best safety squeezes I've seen. The Cubs finished the scoring in the seventh thanks to two wild pitches by Cardinals relieve Sam Freeman.
Freeman only came into the game after Jake Westbrook had thrown 124 pitches. If you think that's a lot of pitches, you're right; it's just the 17th game in the major leagues this year in which a pitcher has thrown that many pitches or more. It was clear that Westbrook was "taking one for the team" after the Cardinals played two long extra-inning games in their last three outings in Pittsburgh. It worked out well for the Cubs Friday afternoon, anyway.
As I said, I have no complaints. Nicely done, and let's see more of this. I especially liked what I saw from Arrieta; if he keeps doing this, or even anything close, that gives the Cubs a solid, relatively young (he'll turn 28 in March) rotation piece for 2014, in a trade for a pitcher who was dealt at his absolute peak value. Further, the Cubs might have also received a solid major-league reliever in that deal. Well done, Theo and Jed.
The Cubs broke a seven-game home losing streak with the win. Perhaps they can do it again tomorrow; taking another from the Cardinals would be great. It'll be Travis Wood facing Joe Kelly, again at 3:05 CT.