by Chris O’Reilly
No-Hit, No Problem
Jake Arrieta single-handedly ended – literally – the Cubs’ recent road woes on Sunday evening, pitching an absolute and utter gem of a game, en route to a 2-0 victory. While the Cubs’ offense could only muster a mere 2 runs, this happened to be more than enough for the newfound ace. These two runs also came in the first inning, on a Kris Bryant two-run shot. Arrieta struck out 11 on 116 pitches, and was aided in moments by the Cubs’ defense. Starlin Castro reacted with shortstop-like reflex on a line drive to second base to preserve the no-hitter in the bottom of the 7th, and Addison Russell beautifully played a slow groundball up the middle to conclude the bottom of the 8th. With an end to a road trip that saw the Cubs eek out 8 runs total since scoring 8 against the Giants on Tuesday, the offense did manage to provide a semblance of optimism going forward in the form of 13 hits.
Back Home with Perspective
The Cubs return home after a west coast road trip against two of the top teams in the NL not only this year, but in recent memory. A 2-4 record due to a struggling offense and being outpitched in all but two games is a superficial evaluation of what really transpired. While these were certainly factors, and it is absolutely fair to assert these as reasons for the struggle, perspective must be kept. Clayton Kershaw, Jake Peavy, and Madison Bumgarner have all won the Cy Young Award within the last 8 years; all faced the Cubs this week and all, mostly, dominated, as they do most opponents. As a corollary, however, the Cubs were given a glimpse into their own bright future on Sunday evening with Jake Arrieta’s dominant performance.
The Cubs, despite their 3-4 record this week, have managed to remain 5.5 games up on the Giants for the second Wild Card spot heading into the last day of August. They remain 5.0 games behind Pittsburgh for the first spot, and second place in the NL Central, and 9.5 games behind the Cardinals for first place. It looks to be the Cubs’ spot to lose, and with Joe Maddon’s encouragement and near-requirement of onesie-wearing on late night team flights, the loss does not seem overly likely.
With the coming roster expansion on Tuesday, September 1st, it is expected that Javier Baez will be amongst those in the first wave of call-ups with Emilio Bonifacio and Quintin Berry. Bonifacio helped the I-Cubs complete a sweep of Sacramento by going 4-5 Sunday with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and 2 RBI’s.