SAN FRANCISCO – The best pitcher on the planet for close to a year just pitched seven impressive innings to beat a division leader that has won three of the last six World Series.
And after that 19th consecutive victory, Jake Arrieta said he still hasn’t found his comfort zone with his timing and command.
“I’m still not there,” said Arrieta after Friday night’s 8-1 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park on a night his game was overshadowed by right-fielder Jason Heyward’s first-inning injury to his right rib and hip area.
“It might sound kind of stupid, but personally, there’s a little more in the tank,” Arrieta said. “Once I get fine-tuned and have everything working, it’s going to be tougher for the opponent.”
This on a night he struck out eight, allowed just four hits and ran his record to 8-0 with a National League-leading 1.29 ERA.
“There’s another level we haven’t seen yet this year,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s really set the bar pretty darn high for himself.”
That’s really the issue. Arrieta’s velocity is as good as usual, and so is the sharpness of his breaking pitches.
But 18 walks in his last six starts, including two on Friday, speak to the not-quite-there level of perfection Arrieta seems to expect.
“This was another night where I came out with my ‘B’ stuff and was able to sequence things pretty effectively,” said the guy who ran his record to 24-1 with a 0.99 ERA over his last 29 starts.
“But if I have a game like tonight where I have to battle and sequence differently and keep them off balance, I’m capable of doing that, also,” Arrieta said.
The Cubs have won Arrieta’s last 22 regular-season starts. The NL’s reigning Cy Young winner has more no-hitters (two) than losses (one) in his last 29.
Friday’s victory also was his seventh straight when he’s pitched the game after a Cubs loss – with a 0.50 ERA in those games.
“I’ve never seen a guy do what he’s done right now,” said Maddon, who had Cy Young winner David Price in Tampa Bay. “I’ve never seen anybody this consistent regarding an entire game of this period of time.
“Normally you get a nice month, maybe a nice six weeks, maybe just a nice season,” Maddon said. “It’s beyond that. It’s not nice. It’s legendary what he’s done to this point.”
And he hasn’t even found his good command yet.