ST. LOUIS – Someday it’s going to happen.
It has to.
“Listen, it’s baseball, man,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
When it does – when Jake Arrieta finally loses a game – it’s probably going to look a lot like this one.
A few singles, maybe a walk and a hit batter, a throwing error, a couple of infield choppers bounced so high that double plays can’t be turned. And firsts. Definitely a lot of firsts.
Arrieta survived this one on Wednesday, battling through five innings against the Cardinals as teammates out-hit his struggles in a 9-8 victory that gave the Cubs their second series victory over the Cards in St. Louis in the last five weeks.
“When it’s 6-1 in the third inning, I feel like we’re going to win that game no matter what,” said Arrieta (9-0), who won for the 20th consecutive decision dating to July 25, when Cole Hamels needed a no-hitter to beat him.
“They were able to do some things offensively, have some extended at-bats and put some good swings on balls and make my job difficult,” said Arrieta, whose last loss on the road came at the same venue more than a year ago.
A six-run second inning and three-run homer by Kris Bryant in the sixth was just enough to prevent another.
“We needed each and every run today,” Arrieta said. “I’ll tighten some things up. But the way I threw the ball today was pretty solid outside of the results.”
He had velocity and he had movement. The rest of his start was about Cardinals contact and Cubs luck.
The four runs he allowed were the most in 30 regular-season starts, snapping the longest streak in baseball since the pitching rubber was moved to its current distance from the plate in 1893.
Stephen Piscotty’s two-out single produced the first run he’s given up in the first inning in 33 starts, dating to May 29.
And the home run Randal Grichuk hit in the second was the first he’s given up since his second start of the season, in Arizona – first in 10 career starts he has allowed to a Cardinal.
Maybe it’s just this easy to take Arrieta’s long-sustained dominance for granted, but it has appeared for several starts at this point that the air of invincibility has faded.
Not that the Cubs seemed to care as they finished off a 4-5 road trip with the uplifting note of a series win against their rivals.
“It was a great ending to a pretty average road trip,” said Bryant, who homered four times during the trip. “We’ll kind of cherish this one a little longer.”
That sounded like the way Maddon looks at Arrieta’s preposterous run that is fast approaching a full calendar year.
“I was just running down his game log, and you see all these wins, and it’s pretty incredible,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s on a nice run right now, historic run. I will take a moment to sit back and think that I’ve been watching this the whole time. I have to understand I’m watching something really significant right now.”
But it has to end, right?
“I hope not,” he said. “That’s one of those bridges you cross when you get to it.”
Arrieta continues to expect dominance when he pitches, and seems to expect to make more history.
Asked if he even lets himself think it’s possible the streak will end, he said: “Hopefully not this year.”
It has taken the best run support in the majors (7.2 runs a game) to help him through the first 10 starts.
“We’ll ride it out, see where it goes,” he said. “But the way we’re swinging the bats and the way I think I’m capable of throwing on an extended period, I think we can keep it going a little longer.”