By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — If that was right-hander Jake Arrieta’s final outing in a Cubs uniform, what a way it was to go out.
Weeks away from becoming a free agent, Arrieta fulfilled his billing as a big-game pitcher once again by helping the Cubs stave off elimination in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. Arrieta fired 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, going deep enough into the game to make the Cubs’ struggling bullpen a moot point.
“I thought the movement on his pitches was spectacular,” manager Joe Madodn said. “I could see the good movement from the side. The curveball was really good I thought. So he really needed to pitch as deeply as he did to help us get that win tonight.”
The Cubs were left for dead by many after falling in a 3-0 hole Tuesday night. It was then Arrieta who set the tone Wednesday, as he allowed just three hits while walking five and striking out nine. His only blemish was allowing a solo homer to Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
“He was really good,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who had one of the Cubs’ three solo homers to support Arrieta. “The first few innings, he threw a lot of pitches. His sinker was moving too much. After that, he made some adjustments. He worked his way out of trouble with men on base.”
It was the third elimination game Arrieta had won in his career in as many such starts. He fired a complete-game shutout in the 2015 NL wild-card game, then won Game 6 of the World Series last fall as the Cubs rallied to end their championship drought.
Arrieta has a 1.27 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings across those three elimination starts.
“I have been in situations like this before,” Arrieta said. “I was going to do everything I could to make them chase in the count. I was determined not to make a mistake in situations where they were not chasing. I was OK walking some guys. I just would think about getting the next guy.”
While Chicago still has life in the NLCS, Wednesday may have marked Arrieta’s swan song with the Cubs, as their livelihood now is simply game to game and he could leave in free agency this offseason.
If it was, Arrieta leaves a championship legacy marked by toughness and plenty of dominance. He just hopes there’s a little more to come.
“It was win or go home,” Arrieta said. “I had it in my mindset to get it to tomorrow. This was about making good pitches consistently in big situations. I was able to do that.”
Upon exiting with two outs in the seventh inning, Arrieta doffed his hat to the Wrigley Field crowd before he reached the dugout.
So was that a goodbye or a thank you?
“Hopefully, it is not goodbye,” Arrieta said. “Obviously, it’s a thank you. I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If this is where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.