ST. LOUIS — Just when it looked like the Cubs could breathe a little easier about their starting pitching and start locking in playoff-rotation plans, Jake Arrieta threw another question mark into the mix.
Arrieta, who returned quickly from a hamstring injury to start Thursday in Milwaukee, struggled for three innings before his tight pitch limit ran out in an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday.
He gave up five runs, including three on a pair of home runs, but the numbers looked worse because of a two-out error by shortstop Mike Freeman that led to two unearned runs in the first.
“Tonight was up and down physically,” said Arrieta, who said he has made adjustments to his delivery to compensate for the hamstring not being 100 percent yet. “I didn’t feel great. I intend to do everything I can in the next four days to recover and be ready for Sunday and go from there.
“There’s still some recovering to do, but having said that, I’m plenty healthy enough to go out there and be really good.”
Manager Joe Maddon sounded confident in Arrieta’s ability to progress and be ready for the playoffs. Meanwhile, left-hander Jon Lester continues to be a question in the playoff rotation plans despite responding Monday to concerns over his post-injury struggles with six impressive innings.
“The guys that we have can pitch in big games in October and have done that for a long time,” Arrieta said. “Regardless of what the regular season stats are, we’ve got 3-4-plus guys that can go out there and really pitch well in October. I think we’ve shown that.”
This and that
Cubs infielder Javy Baez was out of the lineup Tuesday because of the bruised right knee he suffered in the eighth inning Monday, when he fouled a ball off the knee. He came off the bench as a pinch hitter, striking out to end the game.
• The Cubs also started the game without shortstop Addison Russell because of a scheduled day off – part of the Cubs’ schedule for easing Russell back into full-time play after a lengthy foot injury.
• Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who is in concussion protocol after taking back-to-back foul balls off his mask Monday night, may not play again this season.
• Cubs president Theo Epstein on Russell’s encounter Monday night with the Nacho Man fan: “I thought that whole thing was cheesy.”
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