Arrieta’s stumble vs. Reds new for him, not rotation originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta’s timing felt off in warmups. Glue held together a cut on his right thumb.
“One of those nights where I knew I was going to need some good fortune” Arrieta said, “and was going to just have to compete my way through it.”
If the Cubs starting rotation was performing even just up to outside expectations –as modest as they were for this soft-tossing group – maybe the Cubs’ 8-6 loss at Cincinnati on Friday would be a blip on the schedule. Arrieta, after all, has been the Cubs’ most consistent starting pitcher.
He entered play Friday with a 2.57 ERA and had thrown at least five innings in each of his first five starts.
Giving up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings on Friday was clearly an anomaly.
Except, for Cubs starters this year, allowing a flurry of runs in early innings has become commonplace.
In the Cubs’ past five games, only two of their starting pitchers made it through the fourth inning: Trevor Williams and Adbert Alzolay. The rookie Alzolay was the only one with a quality start in that time.
The three pitchers who were expected to lead the rotation this season – Kyle Hendricks, Arrieta and Zach Davies – combined to allow 19 runs in 10 2/3 innings.
Hendricks, the Cubs’ ace, is having the worst March/April of his career (7.54 ERA) So, Arrieta would seem to be the natural heir to the title of “stopper.” And he did ground the rotation through five starts. But his sixth showed how quickly the Cubs’ starting pitching situation can spiral right now.
Alzolay pitched a career game on Thursday, his first quality start. The Cubs’ 9-3 win at Atlanta that night snapped a five-game losing streak. But with a loss on Friday, Arrieta’s day, who can the Cubs count on to prevent another slide?
The Cubs don’t have Yu Darvish’s “win days” anymore.
“When you're scuffling and you can't find wins, you're hoping each guy is the stopper,” Cubs manager David Ross said this week. “I don't think there's a guy that takes the mound for us where we don't feel like we have a chance to win. Now, they're not pitching to their ability, but we love our chances with the track record they've had.”
The track records of Hendricks (1-3, 7.54 ERA) and Davies (1-2, 9.47 ERA) suggest the they’ll climb out of their current slumps. Both have sub-4.00 career ERAs. Hendricks won the NL ERA crown (2.13) in 2016.
For now, however, question marks loom over their scheduled starts.
Williams and Alzolay have been more predictable the past few weeks. But, coming off a 60-game season last year, and so early in Alzolay’s career, neither is throwing deep into games. In fact, no Cubs starter has thrown in the seventh inning this season.
Sure, Arrieta’s short start on Friday was an outlier for him. But a cut finger and disjointed timing were the month of April’s final blows to the Cubs rotation.
“The game’s hard, and sometimes you just don’t pitch like you’d like to,” Arrieta said Saturday. “That’s all.”