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It’s Arrieta at Wrigley, a match made for Cubs heaven

ST. LOUIS – The  Cubs had to win this one.

The Cardinals could say the same.

Even with Jake Arrieta, the hottest pitcher in baseball, lined up to pitch Game 3 of the best-of-five National League Division Series Monday, the Cardinals would have been at ease leading two games to none.

Now, the odds are against them.

“We know how good he is,’’ Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. “We know what kind of pitcher he is. We’re going to go up there, try to put some good at-bats together and see if we can get him.’’

“I wouldn’t want any other pitcher in the world on the mound right now,’’ right-hander Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Game 2 starter who kept Arrieta’s seat warm, said.

The Cubs will not only have Arrieta going for them, but they can’t wait to see their championship-starved crowd let it all hang out for the first postseason game at Wrigley Field since 2008. The Cubs haven’t won one of those since 2003.

Arrieta, who will be opposed by Michael Wacha, should have more of an impact on the outcome than the crowd. But Cubs players are expecting an emotional lift, which can’t hurt.

“I’m really excited — a lot of these guys are excited,’’ veteran catcher David Ross said. “The atmosphere around Wrigley was really fun down the stretch but this town has been waiting a few years on this. I haven’t necessarily felt their pain but I’ve felt the excitement around the city as you walk around. I am super excited about that atmosphere, what the crowd is going to bring on our home-town field.’’

Ross, who caught Friday’s Game 1 loss, was asked if Game 2 was a must win.

“Yes,’’ he said.

“You say they’re all must wins you say and we have Jake going but my thing around here after we’ve lost one or two is to yell my saying at these guys, ‘gotta have it!’ A lot of guys were saying that to me today: ‘Gotta have it!’ and they went out and produced.’’

“It gives us the momentum,’’ Hendricks said. “If we had won Game 1 and lost this one it would have felt about the same but it does feel good to get the win now, fly home on a happy flight,  and get the momentum going into Wrigley.’’

And take it there with Arrieta.

“Getting Jake pitching for us is kind of a good though, obviously,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s been pitching – how can I say? – spectacular.”

It was Arrieta who pitched a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and no walks in the Wild Card victory over Pittsburgh that put the Cubs in this series. That came after he finished the regular season with a franchise record 20 straight quality starts, in which he went 16-1 with a 0.86 ERA.

“You can’t get ahead of yourself though,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo cautioned. “We are very calm.

“I feel like we’re a different ballclub with him on the mound. He sets a tone. But that’s a great team. They find ways to win against any pitcher, any time. So we got to show up on Monday and be ready to play.’’