Back to basics! Cubs get back to playing clean baseball in victory over Mets

Starter Jake Arrieta picked up his third win of the season in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory over New York.

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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta delivers a pitch against the Mets.

Cubs starter Jake Arrieta delivers a pitch against the Mets.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs struggled to get their footing over the first three weeks of the regular season and have been searching to find a way to get back on track.

It’s true that over the course of 162 games teams have periods of ups and downs, but one area of concern for the Cubs has been their inability to play complementary baseball during their first 15 games, where both the offense and the pitching play well together.

In the Cubs’ first two series, the starting pitching led the way while the offense sputtered out of the gate. As the pitching has scuffled over the last week, the bats look like they’re beginning to slowly come alive.

While the Cubs are still looking to get both sides on the same page, Tuesday’s 3-1 victory against the Mets gave a small glimpse into what manager David Ross is looking for.  

“That was a really well-played game,” Ross said. “I thought we pitched really well. Long inning with Jake [Arrieta] on bases [in the fourth inning]. He came out just a little rusty there in the fifth and had to work really hard to get through that and then the bullpen picked him up. It was nice picking up some of those insurance runs with the quality at-bats in the fourth. Really nice team win all the way around.”

Playing clean baseball has been a point of emphasis for Ross since he was hired. The Cubs haven’t played their best baseball and have been outplayed in a lot of ways so far. Ross has spoken about needing his team to play their brand of baseball — in all facets of the game.

The Cubs got another solid start from Arrieta, who has quietly been the team’s best starting pitcher in April. He allowed just one run in five innings against the Mets and lowered his ERA to a respectable 2.86.

“I just wanted to help to help the club get off to a good start in the series and that’s exactly what we did,” said Arrieta, who won his third game of the season. “Winning game one of a series puts us in a good position to come out tomorrow and secure the series.”

But Arrieta got some run support against Mets starter Taijuan Walker. Walker struggled with his command, and after Jason Heyward’s two-out single and stolen base kept the fourth inning alive, the Cubs did something they had struggled with so far — taking advantage of an opposing pitcher. They took a 3-0 lead after Eric Sogard’s RBI single and three consecutive walks forced in a run.

“That’s huge for us,” Sogard said. “We gotta to be able to win in more ways than just hitting six homers in a game. It was great to be able to do that tonight. Give a lot of credit to our pitching to really give us the opportunity to keep that lead.”

The Cubs start one of their more challenging stretches of the season as they face the Mets, Brewers, Braves, Reds, and Dodgers over the next two weeks. Being able to play good baseball against quality opponents to finish the month of April is going to be vital as they try to turn things around.

The Cubs have been in the process of figuring out who they are as they’ve tried to navigate the first 15 games of the season, and while it will take more time to figure out the team’s true identity, their performance during the first month will say a lot more about who they want to be in 2021.

“I don’t think that it’s wise to look past tomorrow,” Arrieta said. “Winning any big league ball game is not easy and I think if you look too far in the future, it makes that job even more difficult. ... We obviously want to perform well inside and outside of the division, but we have a tough team in the Mets that we have to beat tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

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