NEW YORK — Jake Arrieta has had a difficult time trying to duplicate the success he had during the first month of the season.
He showed signs of getting back there in his last start Wednesday against the Padres, mostly quieting one of baseball’s best offenses, but wasn’t able to keep it going Monday in the Cubs’ 5-2 loss to the Mets.
Arrieta (5-7, 5.14 ERA) had things under control early, getting through the first three innings without allowing much hard contact, and not so much as a base hit. But the fourth inning was a different story. Arrieta started to fall behind hitters, and the Mets made him pay for the loss in command. He allowed his first hit with one out in the inning, and the Mets had three runs before it was over.
“I had multiple opportunities to get out of the fourth unscathed,” Arrieta said. “The damage was done with two outs, and some of it was self-inflicted.”
After Dominic Smith singled, Arrieta proceeded to walk Billy McKinney before James McCann’s soft single up the middle sneaked through the infield to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Arrieta fell behind 3-1 in the count against the next batter, Kevin Pillar, who hit a two-run double off the wall.
“Started out really sharp,” Arrieta said. “Felt great and felt good throughout the game. A couple walks in there were unnecessary, and the McCann single wasn’t hard contact. Just wasn’t a well-located fastball, and he was able to sneak the ball up middle, and then the Pillar double obviously kind of broke it open.”
Smith added some two-out magic of his own in the fifth, crushing a 433-foot solo shot off Arrieta to make it 4-0. Manager David Ross then went to his bullpen.
Arrieta finished allowing four runs and four hits, striking out three and walking four to tie his season high.
“Timing was good, and I liked all that,” Arrieta said. “I liked everything going into the start. It just really came down to not executing, especially with two outs and the opportunity to get out of that inning with at most one run. . . . Just have to execute a little bit better in those situations to keep it at either a 0-0 game or 1-0.”
After easily being the Cubs’ most consistent starter in April, Arrieta has had a hard time pitching consistently since.
“Sometimes that stuff creeps back to get you,” Ross said. “And you’ve got to work a little bit harder — and he did. I just think some of that command stuff and that bite later on in the game that he had early on [this season] seemed to be missing there on the back end of [this] start.”
Arrieta hasn’t reached the sixth inning since May 14, when he came off the injured list with a cut on his right thumb. He’s now 1-3 over his last five starts with a 6.53 ERA.