Jake Arrieta goes from wild to unhittable in Cubs’ big victory

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The Cubs’ Jake Arrieta throws a pitch against the Indians in Game 2 of the World Series at Progressive Field. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND – Come on, be honest. One inning in, and you were ready to tear off your “In Jake We Trust’’ T-shirt. Some of you were tempted to take Chris Sale’s scissors to it.

Jake Arrieta was having trouble finding the strike zone Wednesday night, and by this I mean if he had walked the ball to the plate and handed it to the catcher, it would have been low and outside.

It was Game 2 of the World Series, an extremely bad time for the reappearance of Jake Scarrieta, this season’s inconsistent version of the 2015 National League Cy Young model.

After getting the first two batters out, the Cubs pitcher walked Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor on four pitches. He missed on his next two pitches – that’s six straight balls, fellow math whizzes – before eventually walking Mike Napoli. After a first-pitch ball to Jose Ramirez, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio walked to the mound to have a chat. I don’t know what he said. Stop doing that? You’re not helping matters? Something.

Another ball to Ramirez and then a pitch that the Indians hitter sent to warning track in left center. Dexter Fowler caught up with it to end the inning, but there had to be a sense of concern on the Cubs’ part, a sense of foreboding, a sense of uh-oh.

And then, as if Arrieta had finally sawed through the ball and chain attached to his ankle, he burst out of the dugout in the second inning a different man. He struck out four of the next five hitters. The Cubs, their fans and anyone remotely associated with 107 years of trouble breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning.

Behind Arrieta and the recently resurrected Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs beat Cleveland 5-1 in a game they absolutely had to have. The World Series is tied at 1-1, with the next three games set for Wrigley Field. It will be a much more peaceful place now that the old Arrieta is back, at least for now, and the Cubs are back in charge.

Arrieta has been up and down this season, so maybe for balance sake, it made sense that he was down and up in Game 2. And it probably was a good thing he gave up a double to Jason Kipnis with one out in the sixth, ending the no-hit bid, because he would have stayed in the game longer than manager Joe Maddon wanted on a 43-degree night. After giving up another single, he was gone after 98 pitches.

How did Arrieta dominate after struggling?

“He’s sleeveless, right?’’ Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “It’s gotta be sleeveless. Got to show off the guns.’’

Arrieta said the problem early was excessive amounts of adrenaline.

“I kind of had my foot on the gas a little too much to start, tried to do more than I needed to,’’ he said. “Then I really got back to executing good pitches toward the bottom of the strike zone, with the cutter going one way and the sinker going the other way, trying to be as aggressive as I could. Allow those guys to put the ball in play and let the defense work.’’

He kept warm by riding a stationary bike while the Cubs were hitting so he wouldn’t lose feeling in his fingertips. Yes, he was aware he had a no-hitter going. A man who has thrown two no-hitters has an inner alert system that tells him he might be on to something special. But he was dealing with a rising pitch count and low temperatures, so the odds weren’t with him.

He got lots of help Wednesday but none of it as inspirational as the aid he received from Schwarber. The message? Apparently that the regular season is unnecessary. Same with the division and championship series. Just show up at the World Series with your bat and have at it. The guy playing in his second straight game after missing almost all of the season with a knee injury swung on a 3-0 count in the third. And singled.

Must be nice to be young, talented and oblivious.


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