Jake Arrieta finds his groove in Cubs’ 13-6 win over Brewers
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Any team will take a 13-6 victory, such as the one the Cubs got Sunday against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.
But as much as manager Joe Maddon liked what he got from his offense, the starting pitching was even more to his liking.
That was all about right-hander Jake Arrieta, whose early-season struggles seem to be fading.
‘‘Getting out of those tough moments was large,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘He had really good stuff.’’
Arrieta (5-3) needed it immediately after Brewers leadoff man Jonathan Villar opened the game with a double, the kind of first-inning woes that have beset Arrieta and the Cubs too often this season.
But Villar never advanced, and that seemed to put Arrieta on the right course.
‘‘Psychologically, it makes a difference for a guy if you’ve had that problem,’’ Maddon said of the first inning.
The Brewers put men in scoring position four more times against Arrieta, but the only run they scored against him in six innings was unearned, the result of his own error handling a comebacker to the mound in the fifth.
‘‘Minimizing the damage in the fifth was huge, and just making pitches when I needed to was the key to the outing today,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘I felt good. It was a grind for a while in a couple of innings, but I was able to bear down.’’
It helped that the Cubs’ revamped lineup debuted with a bang, starting with leadoff man Ben Zobrist hitting a home run to start a three-run first.
The lead grew on the strength of two homers by Kris Bryant and another by Anthony Rizzo, two sacrifice flies from Willson Contreras (3-for-3) and an RBI single from Kyle Schwarber, who beat the throw to first after grounding to the right-field grass, where Villar was playing in a defensive shift.
‘‘Pitching with a lead is the ideal,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘It alleviates pressure in the other parts of the game when we’re swinging the bats the way we were.’’
Maddon and the players have been saying the hitting would come around, and Bryant called the 15-hit outburst ‘‘due.’’
‘‘It was just a matter of time before we’d click,’’ Bryant said.
He also said he was fine with moving from No. 2 to No. 3 in the batting order.
‘‘I’m on board,’’ he said. ‘‘I like it. I’ve been used to batting second, but I guess my favorite spot would be today.’’
Newcomer Ian Happ (.346 in seven games) added a pair of doubles and an RBI.
‘‘He doesn’t surprise me,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘We saw what he could do in spring training.’’
The Brewers didn’t score an earned run until the ninth, when just-recalled rookie Dylan Floro allowed five runs.
But the pitcher Maddon focused on most was Arrieta.
‘‘His last three starts he threw only 85 pitches, and I was concerned about getting him stretched out,’’ Maddon said of Arrieta, who reached a season-high 111 against the Brewers. ‘‘In St. Louis [Arrieta’s last start], he gave up only two two-run home runs [in a 5-0 loss], and everyone was saying, ‘What’s wrong with Arrieta?’ ’’
Arrieta had gone 2-3 with a 7.27 ERA in his previous five starts, but this was ‘‘a step in the right direction,’’ he said.
‘‘I would have liked to be more crisp with my off-speed stuff, but I was able to bear down when I needed to,’’ he said.
Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.