The Cubs had their five-game winning streak ended in the first game of this series, but evened it up with another solid outing from Jake Arrieta.
A Cubs hitter and a Rockies pitcher had a unique name matchup in this game — it’s not been repeated.
The Cubs were 9-2 after this win and three games in first place in the N.L. Central.
It's difficult to come up with superlatives above superlatives to describe Jake Arrieta's performance since last season, but let me try this one.
Since the third inning July 25, 2015 -- surely you remember that game, Cole Hamels' no-hitter against the Cubs -- Jake has thrown 48⅔ innings at Wrigley Field.
In those innings, he has allowed 23 hits and six walks (0.596 WHIP) and struck out 53.
I mention specifically the third inning of that game because the Phillies scored three runs in that inning. Those are the last runs Jake has allowed at Wrigley -- 48⅔ consecutive scoreless innings at home, including eight nearly-flawless innings Saturday afternoon as the Cubs defeated the Rockies 6-2, the only discordant note coming after Jake left the game, two runs allowed by Travis Wood on a Carlos Gonzalez homer.
Jake gave up five hits, four singles and a double, and only two runners got past first base. He batted for himself in the eighth inning to a loud ovation (well, before he came to bat; the strikeout ending the inning didn't result in any applause). At exactly 100 pitches I thought Joe Maddon might send him out for the ninth, but instead Wood was summoned, and after CarGo's home run, Pedro Strop finished things off.
Christian Bergman, normally a reliever, did a credible job for five innings, except for two pitches he threw in the fourth. Those were consecutive pitches deposited in the seats by Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler:
Both no-doubt-about-it, both hit into a fairly strong lake breeze.
The Cubs extended the lead with two out in the eighth, thanks to Dexter Fowler's second homer of the year, a three-run blast. Turns out that was fairly important, considering the Rockies' runs off Wood in the ninth. Of course, had the score been 2-0 instead of 6-0, Hector Rondon would have been in the game instead of Wood.
If you care about such things, Arrieta posted his third win in as many starts with this one. He joins Chris Sale as the only pitchers in the major leagues with three victories already. Jake also lowered his ERA to 1.23 and his WHIP to 0.772. He's walked just two batters in 22 innings so far this year, with 20 strikeouts.
As I said, there really aren't words to describe what Jake has done over the last two seasons. Just know you are watching something that no pitcher has done in almost 100 years. It's special, and I know for me, with 50+ years as a baseball fan, it's something I know I've never witnessed. Every time Jake goes to the mound is an occasion worth savoring.
A few other notes: Javier Baez made his season debut with a pair of hits. He also made a couple of nice plays in the field, in particular this one, robbing CarGo of a hit (no embed code, link only). The Trevor Story story could be coming to an end, as Jake struck him out three times (before he doubled off Wood).
And if you missed this during the game, take some time to watch it now, as Rockies reliever David Hale faced Matt Szczur. Yes, the first-ever Hale/Szczur matchup:
Matt singled off Hale and scored on Fowler's homer.
So the Cubs improve to 9-2, their best record after 11 games since 1969, when they were 10-1. Other years the Cubs were 9-2 since 1900: 1907 and 1934. One of those years is different from the other, as you know. With the Reds' defeat of the Cardinals Saturday, the Cubs' lead over both those teams is now three games. One of those teams is different from the other, too. I don't expect the Reds to be anywhere near second place by the end of this season.
It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon at Wrigley Field, with temperatures only in the 50s due to the lake breeze, but in the sun in the bleachers it felt quite warm. Most of the sellout of 41,702 stayed till the end, too, wanting not to miss any of Jake's amazing performance.
The Cubs go for the series win Sunday afternoon on what's supposed to be yet another perfectly sunny spring day -- we don't get weeks like this in mid-April in Chicago very often, so savor that, too -- with Jon Lester taking the mound against Tyler Chatwood.