Tonight’s matchup, as the Chicago Cubs mentioned in their pregame notes, is the first between the previous two NL Cy Young award winners since 2008, when Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres faced one another following their respective Cy Young seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Jake Arrieta (2015) and Max Scherzer (2016) are lined up for the second game of four between the Washington Nationals and Cubs in the nation’s capital tonight.
Joe Maddon and the Cubs took the series opener from Dusty Baker’s Nats last night, in spite of a late-inning rally that got the Nationals within one when they trailed 5-0 after eight and a half in D.C.
“Before you play Scherzer it’s always nice [to get the win],” Maddon told reporters late on Monday night, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan.
“To play so well and not win that game, that would’ve been awful. That would’ve been tough.”
Scherzer told the Chicago Tribune writer that he looked forward to the matchup with Arrieta.
“I love going up against the best,” Scherzer said, and though the Cubs have struggled out of the game this season, with a 39-37 record after 76 games, (they were 50-26 at this point last season), he said he knew he would be in for a tough matchup.
“They can do a lot offensively,” [Scherzer] said. “They’ve seen me in the past and have had big games against me. I have to go out there with my ‘A’ game to have success.”
Scherzer was (1-1) in two starts against the Cubs in 2016, with a 6.00 ERA (8 ER in 12 IP), and a .200/.250/.622 line against in his outings against the eventual World Series champions.
Arrieta, like the Cubs in general so far, has struggled at the start this season.
He takes the mound in D.C. with a 4.36 ERA, a 4.10 FIP, 25 walks (2.66 BB/9), 89 Ks (9.46 K/9) and a .255/.317/.445 line against after 15 starts and 84 2⁄3 innings pitched.
“I haven’t really looked at that much about him,” Baker said this afternoon when asked what he’d seen in scouting reports that could explain Arrieta’s issues this season, “... or even hardly followed him, just what I hear on TV sometimes.
“I haven’t studied his action this year yet, I’ll do that when I leave here, but on TV they just think that he’s a little worn from no offseason, being in the postseason.
“That’s what I’ve heard. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. It’s okay, I’m just worried about Max.”
Scherzer is coming off a no-hit bid against the Marlins last week in Miami, which saw him throw 8 1⁄3 hitless before giving up his first hit and quickly the lead in a 2-1 loss.
He ended up throwing a season-high 121 pitches, but Baker said he wasn’t concerned about the Nationals’ ace, who starts the night with a 2.09 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 24 walks (2.01 BB/9), 145 Ks (12.12 K/9) and a .166/.232/.294 line against after 15 starts and 107 2⁄3 innings.
“I’m not worried about that,” Baker said of Scherzer’s high pitch count vs Miami, “because I asked Max, and Max he’ll tell you the truth. I said, ‘Hey, man. How do you feel?’ and he said, ‘Great.’ And usually he’ll tell us and if he gets a little weird — every start is not the same, some starts are very stressful, some are less stressful even though you throw more pitches some games, but you know when you’re a strikeout pitcher you tend to throw more pitches.
“Like when you’re a contact pitcher you’re getting ground balls and double plays and stuff then you tend to throw less pitches, because it at least takes three pitches per person to strike them out… and then that includes balls they foul off, and so you’re probably averaging 5-6 [pitches] per person a lot of times and that adds up.”
As for what he was expecting from the matchup of the last two Cy Young winners?
“Any time you have premier matchups it boils down to which teams make the most mistakes,” Baker said, “and whether they’re offensive or defensive, baserunning or whatever, cause you know, more than likely — who knows, it could be a 10-9 game, but more than likely there probably won’t be a lot of runs unless one of them makes a mistake or two, hangs a breaking ball and a home run, and just like in the playoffs, it boils down to who gets the most two-out hits, who gets the most two-out RBI hits.
“Last night we get a couple of those and then we win. So, it’s going to be a heck of a matchup.”