Jake Arrieta did frightening Jake Arrieta things and nobody felt any better about the strong possibility of facing him in a one-off death match in 10 days as the Cubs beat the Pirates, 4-0, ending their winning streak at eight games.
My mind runs around in circles about Arrieta, then I realize it's baseball and you can't predict it and I give up. It's better this happened tonight instead of the playoffs, obviously. If the Pirates aren't going to win the division, I'd be OK with them getting no-hit all week long as long as they win that one game. The Pirates got to see Arrieta for a second time this month. The wild card game would be their third time facing him in a short span. That would be the same for the Cubs and Gerrit Cole, though.
I don't know.
Arrieta was perfect through six innings, allowing only a Gregory Polanco single to start the seventh inning. He was filthy again, striking out nine, and he needed just 84 pitches to get through seven innings. As the (very much deserved) ESPN love for Arrieta was reaching its peak, he hit a solo home run to right-center field off A.J. Burnett. The only way Arrieta could have generated more momentum for his Cy Young campaign was if he had slapped a big daily fantasy sports ad on his jersey.
Burnett was not at all sharp, Rob Drake's strike zone was goofy for both pitchers all night, and the Bucs fell behind early. Kris Bryant's RBI single put the Cubs up 1-0, but Burnett did limit the damage to that, getting a Jorge Soler strikeout and a Miguel Montero groundout to leave the bases loaded. Chicago went up 2-0 on Arrieta's homer the next inning.
The Pirates looked to have found a little bit of an opening in the seventh. Polanco stole second on Starling Marte's strikeout, and Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch. Aramis Ramirez hit a hard ground ball straight into a 6-4-3 double play, though. The Cubs got two more runs on a Starlin Castro double that was originally called a homer in the bottom of the inning, and that was it.
I can't complain about the Pirates losing for the first time in more than a week, though. The Pirates are 4 1/2 games up on the Cubs for home-field advantage in the Arrieta death match. They're three games back of the Cardinals going into their three-game series this week, which was a lot to hope for in the first place.
Tonight it feels a lot less like chasing the mighty Cardinals and a lot more like running a few steps ahead of the scary vampire-monster chasing the Pirates, hoping he won't catch up.