The National League wild card game was certainly far from boring. Chicago Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta continued his phenomenal run since the beginning of the second half of the regular season, throwing yet another complete game four hit shutout while striking out 11 Pittsburgh Pirates batters. He did not even allow a walk. I know that a player’s postseason numbers do not count towards the Cy Young voting but if it did, Arrieta should be your guy
In the top of the first inning Dexter Fowler led off with a single and proceeded to steal second. Schwarber, batting second, put the Cubs on the board with a single to left plating Fowler. Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole was then able to get through the rest of the first and second innings unscathed.
In the third Cole struck out Arrieta to start the inning. Next up however were the two guys that Cole just couldn’t seem to stop Wednesday night, Fowler and Schwarber. Fowler singled to right and Schwarber hit a MONSTER home run that literally left not just the yard but the entire ballpark making the score 3-0. Two innings later it was Fowler’s turn to go deep and he did for the Cubs’ fourth run of the game.
With Arrieta on the mound it wasn’t going to be easy for the Pirates to come back but they did find their chance in the sixth inning. Arrieta had already allowed a single when he hit Josh Harrison with a pitch. Andrew McCutchen landed on third on an error by Cubs shortstop Addison Russell.
Now with the bases loaded and only one out – this was the Pirates’ one chance to put some runs on the board. Starling Marte hit the ball hard but right to Starlin Castro who completed a beautiful 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and get Arrieta out of his only jam of the night.
Tony Watson came in in the top of the seventh to relieve Antonio Bastardo who had relieved Cole in the top of the sixth. After retiring Miguel Montero and striking out Russell, Watson purposely threw at Arrieta, sending him straight to first base. Whether Watson’s pitch was intentional or not, this did not go over well with the Cubs team. Arrieta looked upset and began to take his base, but then chaos ensued. The Cubs weren’t happy about their superstar Cy Young Award candidate being purposely hit and the benches cleared.
Overall the brawl wasn’t much of a brawl except Sean Rodriguez tried to throw a punch at Kyle Schwarber and was ejected. He then had a fight in the dugout with a couple of water coolers.
The rest of the game went by without incident a combination of Watson, Joakim Soria and closer Mark Melancon kept the Cubs’ score at four but Arrieta remained unhittable shutting down the Pirates to complete his gem.
What Arrieta accomplished was beyond phenomenal, it was unbelievable. Schwarber and Fowler were responsible for the Cubs only offense. Yet, the Cubs have so many other great hitters that it is possible that the same feat could have been accomplished by any pair of Cubs players. The Cubs are young, they have some major momentum on their side and they are off to St. Louis to face the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
The Cardinals have been fighting major injuries all year yet still ended up with the best record in baseball. They’ve been offensively anemic and their wins were not offensively based. They’ve got defense and pitching but against the young Cubs hitters there is a chance that Chicago might just find themselves in the National League Championship Series, for the first time since 2003. We all remember 2003.
Cubs fan Steve Bartman reached out and stole a ball from Moises Alou in a play that ended up defining the series. The Cubs lost and the curse of the Billy Goat continued.
It’s been 107 years since the Cubs won a World Series. It was predicted in the late 1980’s in the movie Back to the Future Part Two that the Cubs would win the World Series in 2015. Prior to the season no one expected a team with so many young players to even make it to the postseason. Now that they have, they will be just one more series away from breaking a curse that has lasted for over a century.