Jake Arrieta’s Cubs homecoming gets off to a good start in 5-1 win over Pirates

Jake Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a member of the Cubs Saturday, making his first start for the home team in the Friendly Confines since Aug. 29, 2017. 

In all, it went pretty well in a 5-1 Cubs win (box score). 

On the negative side, he got into trouble in the first inning after a walk and well-struck single. There was some hard contact, too, as Statcast recorded nine balls in play with an exit velocity of at least 95 miles per hour. He threw 25 pitches in a laborious first inning, too. I suppose we could point out that he missed a few spots, but this is about the extent of anything negative. 

Arrieta was very efficient after that troublesome first, needing 84 pitches in six innings. He gave up just one run on six hits while walking only one. That one run came on a weak bouncing ball in the first, too, though we already pointed out the traffic on the bases was his fault. He struck out five.

He comes away with a 1.50 ERA and the victory. Not a bad start to stint number two in Wrigleyville for Mr. Arrieta. 

Of course, this time around no one is expecting a run that could even come close to matching the first one. Arrieta famously came to the Cubs in a trade with Pedro Strop (one of the best relievers in Cubs history, by the way) from the Orioles for starting pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger. All that would happen through 2017 was Arrieta became an All-Star, won the 2015 Cy Young, threw two no-hitters and went 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA (147 ERA+). He won both of his starts in the 2016 World Series, helping drive the Cubs to their first title in 108 years. 

Not a bad run, huh? 

Again, not even Arrieta would expect similar success. He’s not a hard thrower anymore and isn’t expected to carry high strikeout rates. He’s more a pitch-to-contact guy at this point in his career and the Cubs have what figures to be a good defense behind him. 

Things went according to plan on Saturday. He got only six swings and misses but induced a variety of groundouts and flyouts. There was some good fortune with hard-hit balls being directly at defenders at times, but that’s bound to happen with a quality defense, especially in the era of computerized scouting reports. 

One mitigating factor here worth mentioning would be Arrieta’s opponent. He was facing the Pirates, who figure to be one of the worst teams in baseball and also lost one of their best hitters after just one plate appearance (rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes left with a left wrist injury). The good news there is his next outing also comes against the Pirates (4/8). 

Regardless, the headline here is that Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cub, The Sequel got off to a great start in its Saturday matinee. 

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