Before Monday’s opener of a four-game series against the Dodgers, a reporter told Cubs ace Jake Arrieta that Clayton Kershaw said he wasn’t necessarily disappointed he’ll miss the hot Cubs and Arrieta in the series this week.
“That’s a pretty good answer,” said Arrieta, who didn’t seem to mind the idea of a matchup against the three-time Cy Young winner as he faces the Dodgers Tuesday for the first time since no-hitting them in Los Angeles last August. “There’s very few guys on my list of pitchers if they’re pitching I’ll stop to watch. He’s No. 1 on the list.
“I think everybody appreciates who he is and what he’s done in his career. He’s going to go down as one of the greatest ever,” added Arrieta, who ranks second to Kershaw in National League ERA. “He’s a role model for kids. He does everything the right way. He’s a good person. He’s a special talent.”
Meanwhile, the reigning National League Cy Young winner goes for consecutive win No. 21 – and consecutive team win No. 24 in his starts – when he tries to simulate the precision he had in that Aug. 30 no-hitter.
“I’m sure I’ll have some memories of it when I take the mound,” said Arrieta (9-0), who fought through five innings, allowing four runs in a 9-8 win over the Cardinals in his last start. “Timing wise and in terms of body feel, I was about as good as I could be against St. Louis. I just made some mistakes that cost me really.
“I’m really close to that feel and that precision that I was in last season. So that’s a good sign, and I just look forward to continuing to build on that and trying to be as good timing-wise as I can every time out.”
“It’s just command issues. He’ll feel it in his delivery and all of a sudden,” manager Joe Maddon said, snapping his fingers, “and all of a sudden the balls going to go exactly where he’s going to want it to go. It could happen [Tuesday]. But while he’s searching a little bit, his numbers aren’t bad for the year.”
Numbers like 9-0 in 10 starts with a 1.72 ERA.
“I’ve watched him just doing his workout routine, and it’s insane what this guy does,” Maddon said. “He’s going to find it, and it’s going to take off, like it did last year. His numbers are fabulous; he’s pitching really well. But we know command-wise, there’s another level there.”
Arrieta walked one or fewer in his first three starts, and then just one in his last start against St. Louis. He averaged three per start in the six starts between.