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Jake Arrieta shines in return to mound as Cubs top Tigers

Arrieta allowed two runs and four hits over six innings in the Cubs’ 4-2 win in Detroit.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

DETROIT — What the Cubs got from Jake Arrieta in his return to the mound Friday was the best they could have hoped for.

After missing his last start as he recovered from a cut on his pitching thumb, the veteran right-hander showed no ill effects from the time away and turned in one of his best starts of the season, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings in a 4-2 victory over the Tigers.

“Jake did a great job,” manager David Ross said. “I thought he threw great tonight.”

It wasn’t flashy, and there weren’t many strikeouts for Arrieta (4-3), who fanned just one batter. But he was economical and didn’t see much traffic on the base paths. He faced the minimum through five innings, thanks to double plays in the second, fourth and fifth.

Not many would have projected Arrieta would be the ace of the rotation halfway through May, but that’s exactly where he’s at. Outside of his last start, when he injured the thumb, he has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his outings this season.

“I was able to maintain a pretty good grip on everything,” Arrieta said. “The seams on the ball weren’t really a big factor. The thumb really wasn’t an issue. I was a little stale, though. But [I] had some [success] through a lot of good sinkers and induced quite a bit of weak contact.”

Added Ross: “A lot of ground balls. Nice

to see Jake come back getting a lot of

ground balls.”

The Cubs got on the board in the third when Kris Bryant launched an opposite-field, two-run homer — his 10th homer of the season — that gave him an MLB-leading 25 extra-base hits.

They added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Anthony Rizzo and an RBI single by Javy Baez to make it 4-0.

Arrieta had allowed just two hits through 5 ⅔ innings and almost got out of the frame unscathed before surrendering back-to-back homers to Jake Rogers and Robbie Grossman that cut the lead in half.

Arrieta had only thrown 78 pitches heading to the seventh, but Ross decided to turn things over to the bullpen, which finished the game without any issues.

“I was on the fence, to be honest with you,” Ross said. “I thought [Arrieta] probably could go. He had done a nice job with the next three batters that were coming up in the game. That next inning, I thought I was setting him up to get taken out if it didn’t go really cleanly. . . . Just a lot of factors went into that a little more than the number [of pitches].”

The Cubs’ rotation has slowly started to come around this month, with Adbert Alzolay throwing well and Zach Davies, Kyle Hendricks and Trevor Williams starting to figure things out. If Arrieta continues to be a stabilizing force at the front end of the rotation, it only makes things easier for the staff in the long run.

“It is great to see,” Arrieta said. “Guys are gonna go through their struggles. It’s gonna happen again — we’re going to get another 20-plus starts. And we’ll have our hiccups here and there, but over the course of the season, things will even out, and this group of guys will throw the ball very well consistently.”