Arrieta survives bench-clearer, strikes out 11 as Cubs defeat Pirates 4-0

SHARE Arrieta survives bench-clearer, strikes out 11 as Cubs defeat Pirates 4-0
SHARE Arrieta survives bench-clearer, strikes out 11 as Cubs defeat Pirates 4-0

PITTSBURGH — Jake Arrieta was feeling what a lot of Cubs fans were feeling.

“A nervous excitement,’’ he had said.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ blackout crowd at PNC Park, and perhaps the Pirates themselves by appearing to throw at him in the National League Wild Card game Wednesday — tried to rattle Arrieta in the first postseason game of his career. But none of it affected his pitching, as the Cy Young candidate pitched a four-hitter to lead the Cubs to a 4-0 victory.

Arrieta’s 11 strikeouts tied Kerry Wood’s franchise record set in 2003, and he did not walk a batter. He also found himself in the middle of the first bench-clearer in recent Cubs postseason history.

Here’s what happened: Benches and dugouts emptied during the seventh inning after Pirates left-hander Tony Watson hit Arrieta on the left hip, an apparent retaliation for Arrieta hitting the Pirates Francisco Cervelli leading off the fifth and Josh Harrison in the sixth. There was a significant scrum and tussle along the first base line that involved almost every player and coach, with Arrieta — who showed his displeasure about being thrown at — in the middle of it. The Pirates’ Sean Rodriguez appeared to throw punches in Arriet’s direction but couldn’t land one through the mass of bodies.

After the dust settled, Arrieta stole second without a play but did not score.

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–Dexter Fowler celebrates in the Cubs dugout after scoring the game’s first run.

Maddon talked before the game about the importance of getting a lead.

“If you’re on the road, if you get on the board first, that might take a little steam out of somebody’s sails,” Maddon said. “But that’s our concept all year. We want to score first.”

Here’s what Maddon had to say about his lineup before the game:

Maddon was asked if he’d be surprised if Arrieta performed at less than the sensational level he has pitched at, a 16-1 record with an 0.86 ERA over his last last 20 starts of the regular season.

“Well, what I do anticipate from Jake is that he’s going to be ready,” Maddon said. “I know he’s done his homework. I know he’s very confident.

“He’s going to be rested and ready for this game tonight. I talk about trust. You’ve got to trust your players. I trust Jake.”

Maddon also trusted Schwarber, who started for the third time in right field all season long.

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–Cubs fans exult as Kyle Schwarber rounds first after hitting a two-run homer in the third inning.

Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA this season, the fifth pitcher with at least 22 wins and no more than six losses and an ERA under 2.00 since ERA became a stat in 2013, joining unanimous Cy Young Award winners Sandy Koufax (1963), Denny McLain (1968), Ron Guidry (1978) and Dwight Gooden (1985).

With Arrieta and Cole going head-to-head, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, like everyone else, expected a low scoring game in which defense might make the difference.

“Really it’s late baseball like this, fall baseball, it’s all about pitching and defense for me,” Hurdle said. “We’re putting our best pitcher on the mound, want to put our best defensive team behind him and find a way to scratch out one more run than the other team.”

The Cubs were making their first postseason appearance since the 2008 NLDS, in which they lost the best-of-five to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-0. They also lost the 2007 NLDS 3-0 to the Arizona Diamondbacks and lost to the Florida Marlins 4-3 in the 2003 National League Championship Series and carried a nine-game postseason losing streak into Wednesday’s game.

Cubs lineup:

Dexter Fowler CF

Kyle Schwarber RF

Kris Bryant LF

Anthony Rizzo 1B

Tommy LaStella 3B

Starlin Castro 2B

Miguel Montero C

Addison Russell SS

Jake Arrieta P

With a 4-0 lead in the sixth, Maddon shored up his defense as Austin Jackson pinch hit for La Stella and went into left field, with Bryant moving to third.


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