As Quintana Era opens for Cubs, Jake Arrieta still key to playoff run

BALTIMORE — We interrupt this Jose Quintana-all-day, every-day coverage to report that the Cubs have located another impact starting pitcher for their second-half push.

This according to Jake Arrieta and evidence provided during his 10-3 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night at Camden Yards.

“I joke with my friends, and I kind of tell them how I think I’m going to finish the second half,” Arrieta said before refusing to share the details of those visions. “But I am very confident.”

As much as the Orioles’ terrible starting pitching has provided an ideal launching pad for the Cubs’ hitters in the second half, it’s even more self-evident that the Cubs need more than Quintana to shake the rotation out of its first-half doldrums if they plan to catch the first-place Brewers and reach a third consecutive postseason for the first time since Frank Chance.

Jake Arrieta Saturday night in Baltimore.

Quintana, acquired from the White Sox in Thursday’s blockbuster trade, gets his first chance Sunday to show what kind of difference he can make for a playoff-minded team.

But they’re probably not getting that done without Arrieta (9-7) pitching more like he did Saturday than he did through the first half.

“I’ll take that one tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said, raving about the way Arrieta leaned mostly on two pitches, saving the rest of his wide array for show. “I’ll take strike throwing. I’ll take ball on the ground. I’ll take mishits, soft contact. He was all of that. His method was outstanding. I’ll take that the rest of the year, just like that.”

And if he gets that 6⅔ innings with one earned run allowed often enough, consider the Cubs back in business.

Their first two games back from the break already have resulted in 19 runs (including eight homers) and their first back-to-back victories on the same road trip since April 23-24.

This was Arrieta’s first trip to Baltimore since the Orioles traded him to the Cubs four years ago this month. He and his family went past their old house and ate at their favorite old spots. Then Arrieta spent the day remembering what it was like pitching for a Cubs playoff contender.

Against the backdrop of all that nostalgia, Arrieta admitted to thinking about one last November hurrah on his way out of Chicago.

“I don’t want to leave,” said the pending free agent, “but if I have to leave, I don’t want to leave without another ring. I think it would be amazing to be able to do that a second time for the fans, for the organization, and we’re all on the same page here, regardless of how we played in the first half.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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