For a Chicago Cubs team desperate for top-end pitching in 2014, Jake Arrieta emerged as one of the more dominant arms in the NL.
Through four starts in 2015, he’s been even better.
Now a core member of the Cubs, Arrieta will look to continue his impressive beginning Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, who could get All-Star Carlos Gomez back from the disabled list.
Arrieta (3-1, 2.03 ERA) had a 0.99 WHIP last season and was at 0.94 this April, so far looking like the ace of a rotation that added Jon Lester in the offseason.
The right-hander had his shortest outing so far Sunday, but allowed only four hits and two runs through six innings of a 5-2 victory against Cincinnati.
"That’s what you talk about when a guy doesn’t cave in. That matters," manager Joe Maddon told MLB’s official website." You’re not going to have your best stuff, best everything every night. You’ve got to be able to win with less than your best, and he did.
"That’s a tribute to him and his work and his mental focus."
He’ll take the mound on the heels of Lester’s best performance thus far. The left-hander limited Milwaukee to three hits through seven scoreless innings Friday, and 21-year-old Addison Russell supplied the offense with his first career home run as the Cubs (13-8) picked up a 1-0 victory.
"You have to win 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 to win championships," Maddon said. "I’m really proud of the guys today. … Right now the energy is really good, and the process is good, too."
The Brewers (5-18) have been shut out four times this season and rank near the bottom of the league with 3.09 runs per game. Adam Lind, who did not play Friday, is Milwaukee’s only regular hitting above .300.
The lineup should get a boost Saturday with the return of Gomez, who was on the DL with a hamstring injury.
"For the last 15 days, I’ve been really frustrated. I couldn’t do anything to help my team move forward," Gomez said. "I think when I’m in the lineup, it’s a little bit different. We’re going to be a little bit better. The team has started to play better. We still lost some games, but it’s not like before."
The starting pitching has been much better of late, producing six quality starts in the last nine games after managing only two through the first 14.
None of those belong to Mike Fiers (0-3, 5.79), who has failed to get an out after the fourth inning in his last two starts. His strikeout rate remains appealing (10.61 per nine innings), but its done little good considering his opponents’ batting average of .358 – one of the worst in baseball.
Anthony Rizzo is 5 for 7 with a homer and a double against Fiers. He has reached safely in 10 consecutive games, and owns a 1.105 OPS in that span.
Kris Bryant owns a .458 on-base percentage since joining the major league club, second only to Rizzo’s .479 mark that’s among the best in baseball.
Chicago has won eight of its last 10 meetings with Milwaukee.