The Chicago Cubs manhandled the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3. The Game 2 win tied the NLDS at 1-1. Now, the series moves to Chicago. There’ll be a hot time in the Windy City Monday night for Game 3. Jake Arrieta and Wrigley Field await the Cardinals.
The Cubs needed just one victory to have the advantage in their favor. That happened when they split the series and pulled even with the Cardinals. Now they’ll have the wild and crazy fans of Wrigley field cheering them on. Not only do the Cubs have home field advantage, they have ace Jake Arrieta waiting to lower the boom.
Arrieta’s presence on the mound will be reason to celebrate for the Cubs. Monday will mark the first time Arrieta will be pitching in the NLDS. That is the biggest advantage. That is reason to throw a party in the dugout and stands. Jake Arrieta on the mound is like having Bruce Lee as your personal bodyguard.
Last year during the off season, the Cubs were unsure if Arrieta could be the starter he became in 2014 or the pitcher who struggled with an inflated ERA and control issues. He had bounced back from terrible times in Baltimore and finally settled into a rhythm with Chicago. Arrieta went 10-5 as a starter last year, with an ERA of 2.53. That was the beginning of Jake’s transformation. At one point, Arrietta’s ERA had ballooned to 7.23. That’s a far cry from the Cy Young candidate who will be handed the ball Monday night.
Chicago’s win in St. Louis wasn’t expected by manager Joe Maddon, according to the Chicago Tribune. He was concerned that the Cubs hadn’t faced pitcher Jaime Garcia, a small matter that Maddon thought would give the Cards an edge.
It turned out differently.
The Cardinals had taken early 1-0 lead on Matt Carpenter’s leadoff homer against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks settled down over the next three innings but gave up back-to-back homers to Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk in the fifth before his night was over. Travis Wood was inserted and pitched two-and-a-third scoreless innings.
Cubs closer Hector Rondon entered in the bottom of the ninth, allowing just an infield single to Jason Heyward, to earn the save. The win went to Wood, with Garcia taking the loss.
The excitement around Jake Arrieta is contagious. Even Cubs catcher David Ross couldn’t contain his enthusiasm after Game 2. In a statement from the New York Post, he expressed how the city of Chicago is feeling.
“I’m really excited, a lot of these guys are excited, the atmosphere at Wrigley, this town has been waiting a few years on this. I haven’t felt their pain, but I feel the excitement around the city of Chicago as you walk around and Jake has been super for us. This game was a must win. My saying around here is ‘we’ve got to have it after a loss’ and there were a lot of guys saying that to me today.”
Jake Arrieta does that for a team. He lifts expectations to another level and that helps bring anyone near him to that same plateau.
Arrieta’s performance the second half of the season was masterful. His 0.75 ERA has never been done after the All-Star break. He takes that historical record and a scoreless win against the Pirates into Game 3. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over a century. With Arrieta and a contending lineup, there’s finally a solid chance to advance to the Fall Classic.
The Cubs are creating excitement not only with Arrieta but with the anticipation of winning a championship. Wrigley Field will be rockin’ and ready.
[Photos by Michael B. Thomas, Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]