Jake Arrieta did not finish his 2016 regular season on a high note.
No, actually, it was one of his lowest notes as a Cub. He allowed seven runs, second-most in any of his 98 Cub starts (here’s the only one worse and you probably don’t want to click that link). The Pirates’ John Jaso hit for the cycle, the first player to cycle against the Cubs since the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez did it July 31, 2010 (and you probably don’t want to look at that one either), and the Bucs defeated the Cubs 8-4.
This will be mercifully brief, and I’ll start with the good stuff, the only time in this game the Cubs had the lead. Anthony Rizzo homered with two out in the first [VIDEO]. The crew chief asked for a review, but it was pretty obvious the ball went over the fence before the fan touched it.
That was the only hit the Cubs had until the seventh inning. So already, if you didn’t see this game, you know that things weren’t going the Cubs’ way.
Jake allowed a run in the first, then kept it close until the fourth inning. Jaso, meanwhile, began his night with a harmless single in the second.
In that Pirates fourth, Arrieta hit Matt Joyce, allowed a single to Sean Rodriguez, and then Jaso homered to make it 4-1. Even at that, the Cubs still might have had a chance to get back in this game.
But the fifth inning was not better. Doubles by Rodriguez and Jaso (he’s now “a triple short of a cycle,” an event that happens a couple hundred times a year) made it 5-1, another double by David Freese scored the Pirates’ sixth run and catcher Eric Fryer singled in run number seven.
Jake was done after this inning, 103 pitches in. It was simply an ugly outing for him in all aspects -- he didn’t have sharp command, and when he did get pitches in the zone, the Pirates hit him hard. He finishes the season with a 3.10 ERA, 1.084 WHIP and 3.4 bWAR, a disappointing follow-up to his Cy Young season in 2015. But everyone gets the reset button pressed next week, and hopefully that’s when we see the Jake who threw seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts against the Cardinals last weekend at Wrigley.
Interestingly, Jake’s preferred catcher, Miguel Montero, had been lifted for Willson Contreras before that fifth inning. Did that affect Jake?
Joe Maddon emptied his bench after that, and the sub Cubs made the game interesting for a time. After Addison Russell was hit by a pitch and Albert Almora Jr. walked, a throwing error allowed a run to score and put runners on second and third. Tommy La Stella drove in a pair and it was 7-4. Could this team pull a miracle comeback?
It was not to be. And it was Jaso, completing his cycle with a triple that weirdly hit off the top of the center-field wall and bounced straight down, who drove in Pirates run number eight:
Including three pre-1900 cycles, that was the 14th all-time against the Cubs (they have 11 of their own). Later this morning I’ll have a list of all of them. It was the third cycle this year (Freddie Freeman and Rajai Davis had the others).
Concerning in this game was an injury to Chris Coghlan, after he made a leaping attempt on Rodriguez’ fifth-inning double:
Coghlan nearly caught that ball — you can see it bouncing off the pads very close to his glove — and then appeared to land awkwardly. He eventually walked off under his own power, without a limp, and here’s the diagnosis:
He was later ruled “day-to-day,” and I assume the Cubs will be careful with him in the remaining four regular-season games. Coghlan’s performance recently has him nearly a lock for the postseason roster. Fortunately, he’s got eight days to get back to 100 percent before the first playoff game. Earlier in the evening, he made this fine diving catch [VIDEO], one of the better catchers I’ve seen him make. He could be very valuable off the bench in October.
Mike Montgomery relieved Jake in the sixth, a bit surprising since he was supposed to be part of Thursday’s “bullpen day.” He threw only 14 pitches in a scoreless inning, so maybe he’ll still pitch Thursday evening — Joe could be seeing if Montgomery can go on back-to-back days.
Pedro Strop hit Rodriguez leading off the seventh. You know there’s bad blood between those two, and both benches were warned after that pitch, which hit Rodriguez square in the rear end. That was followed by Jaso’s triple, driving in the final Pirates run. Hector Rondon finished that inning and Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the eighth. Chapman mixed in some changeups and sliders along with fastballs that touched 103.
So there wasn’t much to this game of interest, except for Jaso’s cycle and the use patterns for Cubs relief pitchers. Here’s one more thing of interest:
We’re seeing lots of things this year that haven’t happened since previous pennant seasons.
On the walk watch: The Cubs drew four walks Wednesday night, bringing the season total to 640. They need 11 walks in the season’s final four games to break the franchise record for walks in a season.
On the run watch: Four runs brought the Cubs’ season total to 789, so they need to score 11 runs in the season’s final four games to reach 800 for only the third time since 1937.
As noted above, it’s “bullpen day” for the Cubs in the series, and season, finale against the Pirates at 6:05 p.m. CT tonight. Rob Zastryzny gets the call to start, though I wouldn’t expect him to throw more than 50 pitches, perhaps three innings or so. His most in a game for the Cubs is 49, against the Rockies more than a month ago (August 21); his season high is 75, for Triple-A Iowa against Omaha on August 1. He’ll be opposed by the Pirates’ Ivan Nova.