By Bruce Levine–
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — It was on Aug. 30, 2015 that Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta authored the best performance of his career, as he fired a no-hitter in Dodger Stadium, finishing the task by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
On Tuesday night, the 30-year-old Arrieta will look to rekindle his same dominant stuff, as he’ll take the mound against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series that’s tied 1-1. He’s happy to be in a setting he’s comfortable in.
“Just the environment, the weather over all and the playing surface is great,” Arrieta said.
“You have to give credit to the grounds crew for doing such a good job and making the playing surface so consistent pretty much every night. You know when you feel good about your positioning and footing, it really helps your confidence.”
The reigning NL Cy Young winner, Arrieta must be on top of his game as he opposes Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill. Arrieta understands his own team has struggled offensively for much of this postseason, as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are the only two regulars who’ve hit well.
For the Cubs, the quest to spark the offense starts with lead-off man Dexter Fowler.
“He is one of our leaders,” Arrieta said. “He has this really big personality. He is a great teammate. He keeps us loose before during and after our games. He is really a key catalyst to our offense. You know he gets things going for us quickly most nights. Whether he gets on base or not, he puts together a tremendous at-bat. His defense is also a great help. His overall veteran presence is great.”
The Cubs’ offensive struggles mean there’s less margin for error for the team’s pitchers, so Arrieta knows he must step up.
“You have to stay away from falling into patterns,” Arrieta said. “Patterns are what get you beat against hitters like (Adrian) Gonzalez and (Corey) Seager. That goes for a lot of their talented left-handed hitters.”
In his last two starts against the Dodgers, including the no-hitter in 2015, Arrieta has allowed no runs and just two hits in 16 innings. The Dodgers could counter Arrieta with as many as eight left-handed hitters in their lineup.
“You know it’s going to be a different game with different experiences,” Arrieta said.
“I will use some of my experiences from that last time here moving into my prep for tonight. At the same time, it’s a completely different game, different feel. At the same time, it’s about the same lineup.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.