By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — It seems only fitting that right-hander Jake Arrieta gets the chance to stave off elimination for the Cubs on Wednesday night.
Since joining the Cubs in July 2013, Arrieta has spearheaded the team’s success and been a rock in their rotation. As his career took off, so too did the trajectory of the youth-infused Cubs.
But his tenure in Chicago could be over as soon as late Wednesday night, as the Cubs trail 3-0 against the Dodgers heading into Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field. Shortly after the Cubs’ season ends, the 31-year-old Arrieta will become a free agent.
He’ll get his much-deserved payday, likely in the range of four to six years at around $25 million annually. The question is from what team does that contract come from.
For now, Arrieta isn’t looking that far ahead.
“It is a repeat,” Arrieta said in reference to his start in the National League Division Series last week, which he thought might be his last in a Cubs uniform. “This is a very similar situation. Nonetheless, I am still very optimistic. I am looking forward to making a couple of more starts here. We have been pretty good at being able to win multiple games in a row. That is what we intend to do. I am still going to take everything in as well as I can. I will prepare to the best of my ability and be ready for these guys here in Game 4.”
Arrieta’s 54 wins since the start of 2015 are the most in baseball, and his 2.71 ERA is the second-best mark in that stretch. It’s what gives his Cubs teammates confidence entering Game 4, even though they’re down 3-0.
“We always feel good with our starters on the mound for us,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “Jake has always been a big-game pitcher for us since I have been here. We need to take them one day at a time now. We have to win them all.”
Arrieta suffered a hamstring strain in early September and still isn’t 100 percent, but he maintains he has all he needs to lead the Cubs to victory.
“The leg issue is pretty much behind us,” Arrieta said. “With my command, I was erratic in my first start in the postseason. Not being out there for a couple of weeks, I was a little shaky. I have had some really good side sessions. I feel pretty good about where I am at right now.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.