As on top of his game as Jake Arrieta may be, Cubs manager Joe Maddon conceded Sunday that his ace isn’t always perfect.
A day after Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke suggested that Arrieta hitting Jung Ho Kang during the Cubs’ 8-2 win may not have been unintentional, Maddon scoffed at Locke’s assertion.
Locke told reporters Saturday that anytime Arrieta hits anyone “you’ve got to assume automatically that one didn’t just get away.”
Before Sunday’s series finale with the Pirates, Maddon was asked what he thought of Locke’s evaluation – especially after the Pirates Saturday starter was one of two walks Arrieta gave up.
“My point is that (Locke is) suggesting Jake suggesting Jake always knows where the ball is going,” Maddon said Sunday. “I’m saying it’s evidenced by the fact (Arrieta) walked him on four pitches that he always doesn’t know where the ball is going.”
Given the reigning National League’s Cy Young winner’s dominance of late despite struggling at times with his command, Maddon understands the assumption by opposing hitters that Arrieta – who is 23-1 with a 0.98 ERA since last June 21 – has the ability to click into auto-pilot mode.
The Cubs have now won Arrieta’s last 21 starts, making him one of five pitchers since 1913 to have his team win 21 consecutive starts. Arrieta has also allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last 28 starts, according to Elias Sports Bureau, which is the longest such streak in the majors since 1893.
But as good as Arrieta has been over that stretch, perfection isn’t an attribute Maddon chooses to use – especially as it relates to when pitches get away from the 30-year-old right-hander.
Maddon said when hitters get hit by a pitch, he believes that 99.9 percent of the time, it’s not intentional, no matter what Pirates hitters may have thought following games when both benches were warned.
“He’s definitely got a Cyborg look about him,” Maddon said of Arrieta. “When you watch him out there, I can see Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best, just going through this pitching motion, pitching exactly where he wants all the time.
“But I think even Arnold messed up a couple times in Terminator. (Arrieta’s) not perfect by any means…When somebody wants to bring it to the forefront, that’s their right to do that, but believe me, I think Jake actually said it, you’ll know when he’s wanting to hit somebody.”