[ed. note - “We wrote this up before the drama with Stephen Strasburg started today, but as you’ll note below, Stras is starting for the Washington Nationals in Game 4 of the NLDS this afternoon.”]
Chicago Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta gave up six hits, a season-high six walks, and six runs, five earned, when he faced the Washington Nationals earlier this season in a 6-1 loss in the nation’s capital. He knows the team he’s going up against this afternoon in Game 4 of the NLDS in Wrigley Field.
“You know, these guys are good at exposing mistakes,” Arrieta told reporters in his pre- start press conference earlier this week.
“If you leave pitches over too much of the plate elevated, they are going to do damage against you. So you know, doing the best I can to speed them up, slow them down, keep them off balance, and trying to get them to chase some things out of the strike zone when I am ahead.
“That's the game plan for pretty much anybody. This is an offense that can beat you from top to bottom. Just have to continue to make good pitches. We've done a good job of that thus far. In Game 2, they were able to handle some stuff up in the strike zone for damage and put the game out of reach at that point.”
Outside of Game 2, and really just the eighth inning in Game 2, the Cubs’ pitching has been able to keep the Nationals’ offense in check, holding Washington’s hitters to a combined 11 hits in 91 at bats so far in the NLDS (.121/.200/.231).
“I think it's just a reiteration of the guys in the order that you've got to pitch careful to. Obviously getting [Trea] Turner out at the top of the order is crucial to keep him off the base paths. He's the catalyst that gets that offense going.
“He's obviously got speed. He's a really quality hitter, and if we do a good job of keeping him off base and making good pitches to the guys after him, [Bryce] Harper, [Ryan] Zimmerman, [Jayson] Werth, you can go on down the order. They are very well balanced.”
Turner, of course, stole four of the seven bases the Nationals swiped off Arrieta (and now-former Cubs’ catcher Miguel Montero) in that late June game, but the Nats’ leadoff man has yet to reach base in the NLDS, so the Cubbies haven’t had to worry about it thus far.
Arrieta, who’s been dealing with a hamstring issue that pushed his NLDS outing back to Game 4, said he hasn’t gone back to look at the outing in D.C. to see what Turner did to him in that start.
“I haven't really addressed that,” Arrieta said. “We know that he's capable of doing those sort of things on the base paths. So varying my times, holding the baseball, being quicker to the plate, those are things that you try and be as good as you can at, you know, throughout the entire season.
“Sometimes you have moments where you're not up to par with those things, but especially in this series and this situation, those are going to be of high emphasis to do the best we can to, first and foremost, keep them off the base. But if he does get on, doing our best to not allow him to get quality jumps and give our catcher, whether it's Willson [Contreras] or whoever is back there, an opportunity to throw him out.”
Will things be different for Arrieta this time? Will the Nationals’ offense come alive in Game 4 of the NLDS? The time for questions is almost over...