Jake Arrieta didn’t have the best outing in his second start of 2016. He allowed three runs, two of them on solo homers.
But he got those back on a blast of his own, and the Cubs took three of four from Arizona and came to Wrigley Field to open the home season with a 5-1 record to face the Reds, who were, surprisingly enough, still tied with the Cubs for first place in the N.L. Central.
Usually, I don't like watching pitchers bat.
But this.. man, this was worth watching and I enjoyed it immensely. You probably did too, so here, have another look:
That blast ranks in the top 15 for distance of all homers hit so far this year, and beyond that:
Jake Arrieta hit a 442-foot HR, which is longer than any HR he's ALLOWED in the past 5 seasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 10, 2016
He's only allowed 1 longer HR in his career
Cubs P Jake Arrieta's HR was the longest by a pitcher within the last eight seasons pic.twitter.com/OioAnrdgxG— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 10, 2016
Check out who's second on that list, too.
Jake's monster home run, a two-run shot, helped lead the Cubs to a 7-3 win over the Diamondbacks, winning the series for their first series win in Chase Field since 2010 (and just the second since 2003). It gave the Cubs a highly-successful 5-1 road trip and brought them home for the Wrigley opener tied for first place in the N.L. Central with the Reds, who they'll face in a three-game set beginning Monday.
Miguel Montero nearly hit two homers, too. Montero's two long doubles both hit off the center-field wall just below the yellow line. Both of them would have been homers at Wrigley. The Cubs hit Shelby Miller pretty hard in fashioning a 3-0 lead before Arrieta, uncharacteristically, allowed a pair of homers. Give credit to Paul Goldschmidt, an excellent hitter, for the first one. The other, the first big-league homer by Socrates Brito, is a bit of a mystery, as Brito wasn't a big power hitter in the minors (26 homers in 2,300 minor-league plate appearances).
Brito's homer tied the game, but Jorge Soler's first homer of the year gave the Cubs the lead back in the sixth and they extended it in the seventh on a two-run rally highlighted by a sacrifice fly by Soler and an RBI single from Tommy La Stella, who got his first start Sunday and who responded with a three-hit afternoon.
The Cubs added yet another run in the eighth on an RBI single by Jason Heyward. And Munenori Kawasaki, just recalled to replace Kyle Schwarber on the 25-man roster, made his Cubs debut in the ninth and reached base what was at first ruled an error on Jean Segura, but it was later changed to a hit, his first as a Cub. Mune promptly stole second base.
Apart from the homers -- and it was the first time since May 29, 2015 against the Royals that he had allowed more than one homer in a game -- Arrieta was pretty sharp. He didn't walk anyone in seven innings, struck out six, and recorded 14 ground-ball outs. So I wouldn't sweat the home runs, especially if Jake is going to counter them himself. As JD said late in the WGN broadcast, "Jake has set the bar so high" that even a very good outing like this one seems "bad" to some extent, even though for most starters, that's very, very good. Jake's 1.93 ERA after this one -- we'd certainly take that for a full season from him.
Justin Grimm had an easy 1-2-3 eighth and Neil Ramirez, the forgotten man so far in the Cubs bullpen, finished things off with another 1-2-3 inning, with a pair of strikeouts. His velocity looked good and I suspect Joe Maddon is trying to ease him in, and that's been especially easy with Cub starters doing so well over the first six games.
I am a bit concerned about Addison Russell, who is just 3-for-21 so far this year with eight strikeouts. Of course, any player can go into a bit of a slump for 21 at-bats. It's just that these things sometimes get magnified when it's at the beginning of the season and the player sees ".143" on the scoreboard. I'm sure Russell, who had a great spring, will snap out of it soon. He did single in his final at-bat of the afternoon.
The Cubs scored 42 runs on the road trip (seven per game) and allowed 15 (2.5 per game). Obviously no team can sustain that kind of run differential, but that's about as good as you can ask for on any trip. That's especially true for a Cubs trip to the West Coast, where previous Cubs teams have gone to die. One of the things that might have been a factor in the excellent performance is that they came to this West Coast trip from spending several weeks in the same time zone, so there wasn't any jet lag heading there as there sometimes can be during the season.
The Cubs also drew 30 walks in the six games and are thus averaging five walks per game, a testament to how these hitters are just so disciplined. It's way too early to figure a "pace" for total walks, but the team record of 650 (set in 1975) could be in jeopardy. The 2008 Cubs came close with 638 walks, and that helped that club win 97 games.
This road trip's six games felt quite a bit like the August and September 2015 Cubs. They'd lose every once in a while, but stayed in every game and this trip was no different. The complaint department door is shut and locked up tight.
So the Cubs come home for what's likely to be one of the most festive, loud, exciting home openers in many years. If you are going, the Cubs remind you again to get there as early as possible with the new security procedures in place. Jon Lester will pitch for the Cubs and Brandon Finnegan for the Reds in a 7:05 CT start.