By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs are on a run in which they’re 10-2 since the All-Star break thanks in large part to the quality outings of their rotation.
On Wednesday evening, right-hander Jake Arrieta continued that trend, taking a no-hit bid into the fifth inning of the Cubs’ eventual 8-3 win against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Arrieta went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out five and walking two.
“I just wanted to have all three of my pitches available for this game,” Arrieta said. “I had my sinker going early and then in the sixth, I got all three outs with my changeup. I still feel like I haven’t pitched my best game yet. I have a lot of weapons. I feel good and am able to command the ball really well right now.”
A big spurt to start the second half has put the Cubs in prime position to reach the postseason for the third straight year. Only once in their history have the Cubs done that, dating back to 1906-’08. With Wednesday’s win, the Cubs climbed into first place in the NL Central by 0.5 games over the Brewers.
As speculation swirls about the Cubs acquiring another pitcher — Justin Verlander? Sonny Gray? Yu Darvish? — on the trade market, manager Joe Maddon has been thrilled with what he’s seen from rotation. That includes a resurgent Arrieta, who’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts in July.
“The break came at the right time for our staff,” Maddon said. “Look, the whole pitching world revolves around fastball command. If you rely on your breaking ball too much, you are going to make mistakes. Guys who pitch primarily with their fastball are the guys who can pitch 200-plus innings a year. It is the difference and the right method, as (Arrieta) continues to use the fastball, he will rack up more innings per game and the Ws.”
Less than two weeks into the second half, the Cubs have erased the 5.5-game deficit they had to the Brewers at the break.
“We know it will be a tough task,” Arrieta said of taking over first place. “We are feeling it. We expect to stay in first place the rest of the way. That is what you deal with at the highest level of sports.”
And if the Cubs stay in first place in part because they do add another starting pitcher to help for the stretch run, Arrieta and company will be cool with that too.
“Yes, if we can get a guy and not lose any key players,” Arrieta said of a potential addition. “That might work in our favor. We now have the pieces to get it done. Trading for (Jose) Quintana was a huge addition to our ball club, as we have seen in his two starts.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.