Cubs Record: 19-6
W: Jake Arrieta (6-0)
L: Jonathon Niese (3-1)
MVP: Jake Arrieta
Jake Arrieta took the mound tonight at PNC park for the first time since the Wild Card game last October in which he led the Cubs to a 4-0 victory that propelled them to the National League Division Series.
Arrieta picked up right where he left off with another dominating performance of seven shutout innings. Going into today’s game the Cubs have averaged 10 runs for Arrieta and today they continued that trend. They put up a quick 2 runs in the second inning with a RBI groundout by Javy Baez and a RBI hit by Arrieta himself.
The big damage occurred in the fourth inning when the Cubs scored four times. Addison Russell scored on a wild pitch by Jonathon Neise, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant each contributed with RBI hits, and Anthony Rizzo hammered an RBI double. The frame closed at 6-0 and the Cubs never looked back.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the eighth inning that the Pirates finally got on the board with an RBI hit by John Jaso. However, the Cubs answered right back in the top of the ninth inning with a Ben Zobrist sacrifice fly, making it a 7-1 Cubs victory.
It feels wrong to put Jake Arrieta in the good category because he isn’t good; he is great. Perhaps we will need to create a separate category for him. Arrieta went seven shutout innings with 5 strikeouts and brought his ERA down to an amazing 0.84. Not to mention he went 1-for-2 at the plate with a walk and a RBI, his third of the season.
The Cubs offense dominated yet again by piling up the hits, walks, and runs. The Cubs scored 7 runs on 11 hits — none of which were home runs — and six different Cubs contributed with RBI. Even the unlikeliest of heroes, new catcher Tim Federowicz, went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Rizzo is heating up too, going 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored. It is safe to say this team will score any way they can.
Nothing much bad to report here, as long as you’re not the Pirates. The Cubs did place Matt Szczur on the 15-day disabled list for a strained hamstring that happened during a double steal attempt in Monday’s 7-2 win. The Cubs called up outfielder Ryan Kalish and transferred Christian Villanueva to the 60-day DL. Jason Heyward was also out of the lineup today and considered day-to-day with a sore wrist.
Jonathon Niese went 5 innings and gave up six runs, bringing his ERA up to 5.94. He did not have good command tonight with 5 walks, 2 wild pitches, and a hit batter (Rizzo). Safe to say this was an ugly start for Niese, who got his first loss of the season.
The Cubs look to John Lester for the series sweep against the Pirates, who will be sending out Juan Nicasio out for the matinee tomorrow. Then it will be time to head home for a ten game homestand beginning on Thursday against the Washington Nationals. The Nationals have been dominating so far this season winning 7 of their last 10 games, making this series arguably the Cubs’ biggest challenge of the young season.