Take a moment, wherever you are today, and savor the memories of Jake Arrieta's 2015 season, because it's likely no living Cubs fan has ever seen a pitcher do what Jake has done this year.
Arrieta threw six seemingly effortless scoreless innings and the Cubs beat the Brewers 6-1 for their sixth consecutive win.
Jake threw 72 pitches. Personally, I might have let him go another inning, because you don't want him to suddenly not have the stamina to go 100+ next Wednesday against the Pirates. On the other hand, I know Joe Maddon wanted to get some of his other pitchers work to see how they might fit into the postseason plan. So it's all OK. As Jake said himself:
"With the circumstances the way they are, it’s not a bad move," Arrieta said of manager Joe Maddon’s decision to pull him after only six innings and 72 pitches in a 6-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. "I would have liked to have stayed out there, but Wednesday is the most important thing for us in getting ready for that day. It’s pretty much the most important thing to everyone here. I’m fine with it."
As happened in Chicago the last time the Cubs faced the Brewers, Scooter Gennett took away any thought of another Jake no-hitter by leading off the Milwaukee first inning with a single. That just made Jake mad. DO NOT MAKE JAKE ARRIETA MAD! He retired the next 11 Brewers in order, and gave them just two singles, striking out seven. More Jake numbers coming, but first, a few words about the Cubs offense, which hummed right along after Ariel Peña struck out the first five Cubs he faced.
Addison Russell missed a home run by about six inches in the third inning, settling for a double. One out later he scored on another double by Tommy La Stella. The Cubs added another run on Anthony Rizzo's 31st homer of the year in the fourth, and then some sketchy Milwaukee defense helped lead to a pair of runs in the fifth. Have you ever seen anyone do this before?
The error was given to right fielder Domingo Santana, which in my opinion as someone who's been an official scorer, wasn't correct. You can see Santana parked under the ball and calling for it, and the ball went off center fielder Logan Schafer's glove, and Kris Bryant reached base. Should have been an E-8, in my view.
Anyway, that loaded the bases with one out and Rizzo singled in a pair of runs, giving him three on the night and 99 for the season. That tied him with Bryant for the team lead. I'd love to see them both get to the 100 mark; the Cubs haven't had two 100-RBI men in a season since Aramis Ramirez and Moises Alou both did it in 2004. (This season already has a better ending than that one, too.)
The Cubs added single runs in the sixth and seventh, the first of those on a Dexter Fowler single after Russell had nearly hit another home run, settling for his 29th double of the year. Later in that inning, Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura accidentally hit Fowler in the left shoulder in attempting to complete a double play:
Fowler took third base and seemed in obvious discomfort. He eventually left the game, though I don't think that was necessarily because of the ball hitting him -- Joe Maddon was resting quite a few of his regulars after the 6-0 lead. Here's hoping Fowler is OK.
After Arrieta was lifted, Trevor Cahill entered and allowed the Brewers' only run, a solo homer by Khris Davis. Travis Wood and Carl Edwards Jr. finished up with no further incident. Both Cahill and Edwards are under consideration for postseason roster spots; Wood will certainly be on the playoff roster.
I'd like to also give more props to La Stella, who has played very well since returning from a nearly season-long injury. He's hitting .273/.329/.409 in 73 plate appearances and can play both second base and third base, as shown by this nifty play he made Friday night:
La Stella has useful on-base and defensive skills that could be very important in a playoff series.
Now, let's talk about Jake Arrieta's marvelous season. 22 wins are the most by anyone in the big leagues this year, and the most by anyone since Justin Verlander's 24 in 2011 (and the most by any National League pitcher since Brandon Webb -- remember him? -- won 22 in 2008). They're the most for a Cubs pitcher since Fergie Jenkins won 24 in 1971.
Jake's 1.77 ERA is the lowest for a Cubs pitcher who qualified for the ERA title since Pete Alexander's 1.72 in 1919. His WHIP of 0.865 is the best since Mordecai Brown posted 0.842 in 1908. He's tied for the major-league lead in complete games (four) and his three complete-game shutouts are the most for any Cub since Greg Maddux had four in 1992. Those three CG shutouts are also tied with Clayton Kershaw for the most in the majors this year. Jake and Kershaw tied for the N.L. lead in innings (229) and Jake is third in the league in strikeouts (236) to Max Scherzer (259) and Kershaw (294).
Zack Greinke, ahead of Jake in the ERA column by 0.09 (1.68 to 1.77) is scheduled to start Saturday night against the Padres. Personally, I hope San Diego hits him hard, so that the two ERA numbers come out pretty much even. Both pitchers have had fantastic years. Perhaps it's hometown bias, but I think Arrieta's season was just a bit better, especially his otherworldly second half. I hope he wins the Cy Young Award; obviously, Jake's more focused on next Wednesday in Pittsburgh, and hopefully several October starts beyond that.
For the Cubs as a team, they moved to 30 games over .500 with this win, just the fourth time since 1945 any Cubs team has been that far over .500 (1969, 1984 and 2008), and the 95 wins are the third-most since 1945 (96 in 1984 and 97 in 2008). Unless they somehow manage to tie the Pirates for second place in the division, the 95 (or more, if they win Saturday and/or Sunday) victories will be the most wins by any third-place team in the divisional era. The 2002 Mariners and the 1978 Brewers both won 93 games, the current mark.
The all-time record for the most wins by a third-place team is 98 by the 1962 Reds. That’s obviously out of reach. The 1964 Orioles won 97 games and finished third and the 1920 Yankees won 95. In prehistoric baseball times, the 1892 Brooklyn Bridegrooms also won 95 games and finished third in a 12-team league. Of course, the Yankees and Bridegrooms only played 154 games.
Circling back to the current situation, the Pirates won in 12 innings over the Reds Friday night, leaving them two games ahead of the Cubs with two to play. Thus if the Pirates win one game, or the Cubs lose one, the wild-card game will be at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. While I'd love for the game to be at Wrigley, the Cubs won three of four at PNC just a couple of weeks ago and overall took six of 10 games played there this year. I have full confidence the Cubs and Jake can take the wild-card game from the Pirates and Gerrit Cole.
I'm not going to Miller Park this weekend as I'm preparing to head for Pittsburgh (presuming, at this point, that the wild-card game is likely going to be there), but the crowd Friday night sounded like it was overwhelmingly Cubs fans. I'd expect the same to happen Saturday and Sunday, the two games remaining in this remarkable regular season. Savor that, too, because years like this don't come our way very often (though, hopefully, they will going forward!). Kyle Hendricks will take the mound Saturday at 6:10 CT against Milwaukee's Tyler Wagner.