OAKLAND, Calif. – Eight scoreless innings. Three hits allowed.
Is Cy Young Jake Arrieta back?
“Not quite yet,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after his ace beat the Oakland Athletics 4-0 for the Cubs first win in an Arrieta start since June. “He’s almost there.”
“Almost” where he was during that historic run through the end of last year and 10 starts into this year — the Cubs will take that from the right-hander anytime he starts.
On Saturday it was good enough, with a few runs, for the Cubs’ sixth straight victory – and ninth in 10 games as they matched their high-water mark of 27 games over .500.
“We continue to do the things we’re good at and minimize the things we’re not, then we’re going to be in pretty good shape,” Arrieta (13-5) said, referring to the 15-6 surge out of the break for a team that limped into the break on a 6-15 slide.
“We’re in really good shape,” he added. “We’re doing a lot of things well and continuing to shore up some things we’re not doing so well. That’s part of the game.”
Arrieta – who says he’s “really close” to his Cy Young form – won for the first time in six starts by pitching his seventh scoreless start of at least six innings this season.
Despite a command hiccup for a batter or two in the fifth, it was the most dominant start for Arrieta since his April 21 no-hitter and dropped his ERA for the season to 2.59.
After three consecutive starts of 5 1/3 innings or less – and seven of 13 such starts going back to April – Arrieta has gone at least six innings in five consecutives starts, pitching into the seventh in all but one of those.
He has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts – with just five hits allowed in his last two (15 innings). And he has held opponents scoreless in 15 of his last 16 innings.
“He looked good,” said veteran Ben Zobrist, who delivered a two-out, two-run single in the third for the big hit of the game. “It’s good to see him get really comfortable out there.”
Maddon said the rest at the All-Star break and since has been the key for the team’s resurgence, in particular the starting pitching that has led the way.
“You can’t get hot without good pitching, and our starters have been fantastic,” he said.
Said Zobrist: “It just seems we needed the rest of the All-Star break to get back to the type of team we are. We knew that we weren’t the team that we had been in June. We knew we could get back to playing good baseball on a nightly basis, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We just need to be able to keep that going as long as we can.”