Cubs' Jake Arrieta on 2021 outlook: 'Only going to get better'

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Tim Stebbins
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Arrieta on 2021 outlook: 'Only going to get better' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

With how he was pitching in the early innings of Thursday’s win over the Pirates, Cubs manager David Ross said he wasn’t sure Jake Arrieta would make it through five innings.

“I struggled to find the command with multiple pitches,” Arrieta said. “It was a battle from the get-go.”

Arrieta threw 54 pitches in the first three innings, a little over half for strikes. Of his 27 pitches in the second inning, 16 were balls. He walked Pittsburgh’s Nos. 7-8 hitters, Jacob Stallings and Dustin Fowler, on four pitches each that frame.

But for all the traffic in the early going, Arrieta was able to keep the Pirates at bay, tossing six innings of two-run ball to improve to 2-0 on the season — his first time doing so since 2018.

“That's what a veteran pitcher does, a guy of his status,” Ross said. “When you're not feeling your best and things aren't sharp, and you're walking guys, you can't find your rhythm, they still find a way to compete.

“And that's what's nice about having a guy with his resume out there, is that you got to trust that they'll figure it out and try to at least make competitive pitches and keep the game close. And that's exactly what he did and was able to get a win out of it.”

Arrieta threw 18 pitches in the fourth — just two for balls — although the Pirates tallied two runs via three singles and a sac fly. But two of those singles were bloops that dropped into the outfield, the other a ground ball that found a whole on the right side.

The right-hander allowed a lone hit over his final two innings, needing just 17 pitches (seven in his sixth and final frame).

“I was a little uneasy there through three [innings],” Ross said, “and then four and five, he seemed to click it in a little bit better.”

The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the top half of the sixth and never looked back.

"I knew once we took the lead, going out there for the sixth, they weren't going to score," Arrieta said.

The early results in Arrieta's return to the Cubs are promising. He's thrown quality starts in both of his outings (each against the Pirates), allowing one and two earned runs, respectively.

If this is what Arrieta can give the Cubs the rest of the season, they will gladly take it. 

Even if Arrieta has something else in mind.

"It's only going to get better," he said.

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