Arrieta Locks Down Pirates

Another wild-card night, another presumptive Cy Young Award winner throws a shutout on the road. Chicago’s Jake Arrieta follows in the footsteps of Houston’s Dallas Kuechel and turns in a dominant outing, Arrieta threw a complete game four-hitter in blanking the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 at PNC Park.

It was a good night to be a pitcher, with the home plate umpire calling a generous outside corner. Arrieta, with a game plan of pitching away from the righthanders anyway, took full advantage and was on cruise control through five innings. It appeared the Pirate hitters were going to spend more time arguing about the outside pitches than they were actually swinging at them.

Gerrit Cole didn’t pitch badly for Pittsburgh, but he had problems with two players and that was enough to make the difference. Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber batted 1-2 and immediately created a run in the top of the first. In the third inning, following a Fowler base hit, Schwarber uncorked a massive blast into the Allegheny River. Fowler closed the scoring with his own home run to right.

Pittsburgh fought to get back into the game and some timely defense from third baseman Kris Bryant prevented it. In the sixth inning, with a man aboard and no one out, Joe Maddon foolishly decided to play the infield in. Gregory Polanco was at the plate. Even allowing for Polanco’s speed, what’s the point of risking a big inning by having Bryant a couple steps in on the grass? Polanco ripped a shot right at Bryant and the third baseman bailed his manager out with a nice grab.

Bryant later speared a shot that was headed for the left field corner to squelch another potential Pirate rally. And in the sixth inning, with the bases loaded, one out and the crowd going nuts, Starling Marte hit a ground ball hard, but it turned into an easy 6-4-3 double play.

It was the second straight year the Pirates have been shut out at home in the wild-card game. Last year it was Madison Bumgarner, this year it was Arrieta. Pittsburgh showed real signs of life in the final four innings, but in the end, the Cubs hit the ball out of the yard and the Pirates didn’t. That left Pittsburgh susceptible to the breaks of the game and they broke Chicago’s way in the final four innings.

The main excitement of the latter part of the game was when Arrieta was plunked on the backside of the seventh inning, in retaliation for having hit two Pirate batters. It was no big deal and Arrieta should have just gone to first. Instead he had to stop, get into it with the catcher and both benches cleared. I don’t think Arrieta was head-hunting on purpose when he hit his two batters—or if he was, it was amazingly stupid, given how thoroughly he was in control. But if you hit a couple guys, man up and take your base without a big production.

One thing that will be a production right now is Cubs-Cardinals in the National League Division Series, a series that starts on Friday at 6:45 PM ET, and will be followed by Mets-Dodgers. Both games will be on TBS. It’s the conclusion of a four-day baseball-fest on Friday with the American League games going during the day.

And speaking of the American League, those Division Series matchups start tomorrow. Rangers-Blue Jays get us started from the Rogers Centre at 3:30 PM ET. Yovani Gallardo faces David Price. The prime-time game is Astros-Royals, with Collin McHugh going against Yordano Ventura.