Let’s take a look at the very successful road trip the Cubs had vs. the Pirates:
Cubs @ Pirates
Cubs 7, Pirates 2
W: Hammel (4-0) L: Cole (2-3)
What the teams were playing for might have been different from the last time the Pirates and Cubs took the field at PNC Park (National League Wild Card Game) but the outcome was the same as the Cubs got the win Monday night. The Pirates came out swinging and took the early lead on Andrew McCutchen‘s home run but Cubs’ starter Jason Hammel wouldn’t give up much after that. He ended with a line of two runs on five hits, walked one and struck out three in five innings of work. Hammel got the win and is a perfect 4-0 for the season. The Cubs offense didn’t take long to strike back against Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole. Cole allowed six runs (five earned) in 4 2/3 innings, walking four batters and striking out six. Cole struggled to locate his fastball all night and didn’t have much luck with his offspeed pitches either he allowed the Cubs’ leadoff man to reach safely in each of his first four innings. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each drove in a run in the third inning. Dexter Fowler also continued his hot start with two hits, a walk and two stolen bases.
Things did get a little heated during the game. Jason Hammel hit Pirates outfielder Starling Marte to lead off the sixth, and Cubs infielder Ben Zobrist was hit by Kyle Lobstein when he led off the next inning. Both sides were upset and warned quickly by home-plate umpire Laz Diaz. This is nothing new since friction between the clubs dates back to the WC game last season. I’m sure you all remember Jake Arrieta hitting two Pirates batters and then he was hit by Tony Watson, which lead to the benches-clearing and we also got a glimpse of how upset Sean Rodriguez can get as he took his anger and frustration out on a Gatorade cooler. Fortunately, both teams kept their cool and finished the game with no major incidents.
Cubs 7, Pirates 1
W: Arrieta (5-0) L: Niese (3-1)
Knowing that Jake Arrieta was the starter for this game, I’m sure you could predict the outcome and you would be correct.
Returning to PNC Park for the first time since the National League Wild Card Game, Jake Arrieta threw seven scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory that brought us flashbacks of his dominant performance last October. Arrieta walked the Pirates’ first two hitters and allowed only singles to Sean Rodriguez in the second and Francisco Cervelli in the seventh, but that was as bad as it got. He struck out five and walked two while lowering his ERA to 0.84. Sean Rodriguez scored the Pirates’ only run in the eighth on Jaso’s ground out off of Trevor Cahill.
With the win, Arrieta improved to 6-0 and did so setting all kinds of records. He set the Cubs all time record for most consecutive wins, 17, topping Rick Sutcliffe’s 16-straight wins in 1984. Arrieta is 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA this season but let’s go back even more, what Arrieta has done since last July has been extraordinary. In his last 24 starts, dating back to last regular season, Arrieta is 20-1 with a 0.86 ERA with two no-hitters. Arrieta also became the first Cub in more than a century to win his first six starts in a season.
The last Cub to do so? Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.
When? In 1908.
Coincidence? I think not.
His numbers are ridiculous, hence why rumors of performance enhancing drugs have begun to circulate. Many question where this dominance came from, especially since his best season with Baltimore was 10-8 with an ERA over 5 in 2011. The man himself has spoken out about this. He credits hard work, getting to know his body and taking care of himself. What I see is a pitcher who has finally figured it out. Jake shows no signs of slowing down and I think that the best might still be yet to come.
Cubs 6, Pirates 2
W: Lester (3-1) L: Nicasio (3-3)
The Cubs continue to prove that they have a very talented team and that they’re the team to beat. They finished a three-game sweep of the Pirates on Wednesday night. Hard to believe but this was the first time they swept the Pirates since September 2012. They were led by a strong start by Cubs left hander Jon Lester, who worked his magic once again and got out of two jams for the second start in a row. He escaped a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning striking out Sean Rodriguez, Josh Harrison flew out to right and he finished it off by striking out Gregory Polanco to end the threat. He pitched out of trouble again in the fifth inning and ended with a line of eight hits, no runs, walked two and struck out five in 5 2/3 innings of work. We also had a bit of Déjà Vu in the second inning when Francisco Cervelli hit a comebacker that got stuck in the web of Lester’s glove. Lester had to throw his entire glove to Anthony Rizzo for the out. You may remember that this same thing happened last season. Pirates’ starter Juan Nicasio only lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (1 ER) on eight hits and three walks. Ben Zobrist hit his second homer of the season, a three-run homer in the third inning and Rizzo added one of his own off Ryan Vogelsong to lead off the seventh. Rizzo’s liner-that-wasn’t also may have gotten into the opponent’s heads a bit!
Next up for the Cubs:
*The Cubs return to Wrigley Field and open a four-game series with the Nationals beginning tonight. The Cubs have had a tremendous start but Dusty Baker and the Nationals are not a team to sleep on. This is going to be a very fun series for everyone involved as the NL’s two leading teams square off against one another. Kyle Hendricks hasn’t pitched since April 26, a 4-3 win over Milwaukee where he gave up one run, two hits and one walk in five innings but did not get a decision. Hendricks was skipped in the rotation following two rainouts. He is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Nationals last season.
Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs
Thursday, May 5, 7:05 PM CDT
Joe Ross, RHP v. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
TV: CSN Radio: 670 The Score
Saturday, May 7, 3:05 PM CDT
Gio Gonzalez, LHP v. Jason Hammel, RHP
TV: CSN, FS1 Radio: 670 The Score
Sunday, May 8, 1:20 PM CDT
Tanner Roark, RHP v. Jake Arrieta, RHP
TV: WGN, MLBN (Out of market only) Radio: 670 The Score
Thanks for reading and as always, Go Cubs!