Cubs’ Jake Arrieta’s short start a blip in rotation’s strong May

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Arrieta’s short start a blip in rotation’s strong May originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Last month, a start from Jake Arrieta like Sunday’s would have been a blow to a struggling Cubs team.

Instead, the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to the Reds on Sunday was just a blip in an impressive month of play. The loss snapped a season-high 6-game winning streak. It was the Cubs’ first multi-run loss of the month.

“Didn't have a good feel for really anything,” Arrieta said after allowing five runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings. “Didn't command the ball great. … And just battled the whole day.”

The Reds’ five runs were most the Cubs had given up in a game since May 15, when the Cubs lost 9-8 at Detroit. Arrieta’s start Sunday was also the Cubs’ shortest since the same May 15 loss to the Tigers, when Cubs right-hander Trevor Williams threw two innings.

A turnaround May has corresponded with the Cubs’ starting rotation finding its footing.

Williams, after struggling early in the month, had arguably his best start of the year his last time out. Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies got their mojo back this month. Hendricks has pitched into the seventh inning or beyond four times already in May. Davies has a 1.72 ERA in his last six starts. Adbert Alzolay shows growth every time out.

Unlike last month, the Cubs rotation wasn’t counting on Arrieta to be their rock.

Far bigger news for the rotation, compared to Arrieta’s rocky start, was that Williams had an appendectomy Sunday morning. He will miss at least his next start, which was scheduled for Monday against the Padres. The Cubs’ starter for the series opener had yet to be announced as of Sunday afternoon.

“That's a hit for us,” Arrieta said. “Wish him a speedy recovery.”

If the rest of the Cubs’ pitching staff continues to perform the way they have this month, however, it’s a hit they could weather.

There was no indication that Arrieta’s struggles Sunday would continue.

“It's one game,” Arrieta (5-5, 4.41 ERA) said. “Prepare for the next one and try to be a little bit sharper.”

His outing could have gone differently if his pitch count hadn’t climbed to 33 in the first inning, partially due to an error. Kris Bryant, playing first base, bobbled a ground ball with two outs to extend the inning. Then, in the fourth inning, an errant throw from third baseman Patrick Wisdom on a slow grounder pulled Bryant off the bag.

The Cubs’ mounting injuries finally showed up in the score book with those two physical errors, which both cost the Cubs runs.

“Some little things went wrong,” Ross said. “Didn’t play the cleanest defense behind (Arrieta), but there's a lot of these guys out of position.”

Even after a bumpy start from Arrieta, the Cubs bullpen shut down the Reds offense for the rest of the game.

Cubs relievers have been charged with just one earned run in the past 15 games. That earned run, scored in the Cubs’ 10-2 win against the Reds on Saturday, snapped a streak of 38.1 innings, the fifth-longest single-season streak by any bullpen in the divisional era.

The bullpen’s strength becomes even more important for the Cubs as they navigate Williams’ absence. Their next two series are against the Padres (34-20) and Giants (33-20), the top teams in the National League.

“It’s just one of those,” Ross said of Sunday’s loss, “turn a page, we’ve got a good team coming in here tomorrow.”

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