Cubs, Pirates clear benches after Arrieta gets hit in NL Wild Card

 

The Pittsburgh Pirates struggled to get a hit off Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.

Hitting Arrieta proved to be far easier.

Pirates reliever Tony Watson drilled Arrieta in the left side with a fastball in the top of the seventh inning during Wednesday night’s NL Wild Card Game. Arrieta and Watson exchanged words near home plate and the bullpens and benches briefly emptied onto the field. The teams gathered around each other along the first-base line but there were no punches thrown. Watson was issued a warning.

Pittsburgh utility player Sean Rodriguez was ejected. Rodriguez took his frustration out on a water cooler in the Pirates’ dugout, landing a couple of good blows in anger.

Arrieta hit two Pirates earlier in the game, though neither appeared intentional.

One thing that didn’t get hit much in the game was Arrieta’s pitching. The Cubs’ ace allowed four hits and struck out 11 without a walk in a complete-game shutout as Chicago rolled to a 4-0 win for its first playoff win since Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS — the series infamous for the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6.

"I’m exhausted. I haven’t felt this way all year," said Arrieta, who led the majors with 22 wins. "This atmosphere, the energy was unbelievable. Tried to use it to the best of my ability. They were loud, they were really loud."

The largest crowd in PNC Park’s history failed to rattle Arrieta or one of baseball’s youngest teams, one that looked right at home while snapping a nine-game playoff losing streak.

LATEST FROM MLB

"You don’t think that these guys are 21, 23 years old, because they don’t play like it," Arrieta said. "They have elevated their play to a level that’s beyond their years, and it’s one of the big reasons we’re here."

The bearded, 29-year-old Arrieta, still unbeaten since July 25, stretched his remarkable second half — in which he posted an 0.75 ERA — into the opening round of the playoffs. He threw the first complete-game shutout for the Cubs in the postseason since Claude Passeau tossed a one-hitter in the 1945 World Series against Detroit.

Arrieta even laughed off the sequence in the seventh.

"It’s two teams battling, grinding it out, supporting their own guys, and sometimes those things happen," Arrieta said. "But we moved past it, and after that point it was just baseball as usual."