PITTSBURGH – If the Cubs got in the Pirates heads Monday, they toyed with their spirits on Tuesday.
In contrast to the emotional fireworks of Monday’s first meeting between what many believe are the best two teams in the National League Central, Tuesday’s 7-1 Cubs victory brought out a quiet, almost dispirited haze over the locals at PNC Park.
“Tonight I don’t think it played out as much,” shortstop Addison Russell said of the emotions at the ballpark Tuesday. “But you saw the way he pitched. He just dealt.”
That would be Jake Arrieta, who sucked the life out of Pirate bats – and the home crowd — over seven scoreless innings.
The closest thing to emotional fire that even the middling, midweek crowd could muster on this night were tepid boos each time Cubs pitcher and Pirates-foil Jake Arrieta stepped to the plate.
Arrieta responded to that by slapping an RBI single up the middle on the first pitch he saw from Jon Niese, in the second inning – which was one more run than he would allow.
After walking the first two batters he faced, Arrieta retired 20 of the 22 batters he faced the rest of the way, allowing just a pair of singles – and haunting the crowd with the kind of dominance he displayed the last time he pitched here, in the wild-card game in October that ended the Pirates’ 2015 season.
Whether it was the reigning National League Cy Young winner’s pitching, or his hitting, or his teammates’ assault on Pirates starter Niese, Arrieta promised more emotion to come in the 17 remaining games to be played this season between the rivals.
“There’s going to be emotion in this division with teams like the Pirates all year,” Arrieta said. “I mean, we’re trying to accomplish the same goals, and we know there’s a couple teams standing in our way.
“I think those are things you can expect in the series that we have with these guys throughout the rest of the season, and with the Cardinals and the other teams in our division as well.”
Meanwhile, the historic roll of success that began last June continued with another gem in Pittsburgh for Arrieta:
— In his last 26 starts, he’s 22-1 with a 0.85 ERA and two no-hitters.
— He’s 17-0 with a 0.55 ERA in his last 18.
As much as the video-game numbers keep piling up, he doesn’t take much time to let much of it soak in, he said.
“I think the turnover’s so fast,” he said. “I have to come out tomorrow and get ready for my next start back at Wrigley Field. You try and enjoy it but it’s short lived because of the goals we have here. We play so many games, so it’s smart to turn the page as quick as possible and get on to the next work day.”
He’s the first Cub to win his first six starts of the season since Three Finger Brown in 1908 – or as one press box wise guy said, the first Cub with all five fingers to do it.
And those 17 consecutive victories? The streak breaks the franchise record set by Rick Sutcliffe – a part-time spring training instructor for the Cubs – in 1984-85.
“Maybe in spring training, I’ll rub it in a little bit,” Arrieta said. “But at this point I think it’s just business. It’s cool to think about those kinds of things. We all know the career that Rick had.
But for now we’ve got to turn the page quickly.”