Cubs Observations: Jake Arrieta erases slow start, bats wake up

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Tim Stebbins
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Observations: Arrieta erases slow start, Cubs bats wake up originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Cubs beat the Pirates 4-2 on Thursday, improving to 4-3 on the season.

Here’s 10 observations from the game.

1. With Ian Happ out of Thursday’s lineup, Willson Contreras hit leadoff for the second time this season. The Cubs backstop has made five career starts in the top spot entering Thursday, but manager David Ross said Contreras was receptive and “all for” hitting first.

2. The Cubs managed three hits in 33 at-bats during Wednesday’s 10-inning loss to the Brewers. It took them just seven ABs Thursday to tally four hits. 

Kris Bryant homered, and Javy Báez, Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick singled.

3. With his first-inning home run and third-inning double, Bryant has five extra-base hits in seven games this season, including two long balls.

In 34 games last season, Bryant had just 10 extra-base knocks — four being home runs.

4. Joc Pederson picked up his first hit against a left-handed pitcher this season, knocking a single into right field off Tyler Anderson in the sixth inning. 

Pederson went 1-for-3 against Anderson with two flyouts and later grounded out against reliever Sam Howard. He's now 1-for-9 this season against southpaws.

Pederson has struggled against lefties in his career but is getting the chance to play every day this season.

5. With 11 hits Thursday, the Cubs set their season-high for the young season. Their previous single-game best was seven (this past Saturday against Pittsburgh).

6. Jake Arrieta dealt with command issues early Thursday. In the first three innings, he threw 54 pitches — barely half of which were strikes. That includes a second inning where 16 of his 27 pitches were balls, including two four-pitch walks to the Pirates Nos. 7 and 8 hitters.

7. Arrieta settled down to throw six innings of two-run ball, and despite his early command problems, only threw 89 pitches. He didn’t walk a batter after the third inning but surrendered two runs on three hits in the fourth.

Pittsburgh made hard contact off the right-hander in the fifth, with four balls in play registering 100+ mph exit velocities, but three fell for outs. He worked a 1-2-3 sixth to end the day.

8. Arrieta went 0-for-2 at the plate Thursday, leaving Cubs pitchers hitless in 10 at-bats this season.

9. Craig Kimbrel continued his impressive start to the season. After Dan Winkler walked the bases loaded with one out in the eighth, Kimbrel entered and ended the jam with two strikeouts.

Kimbrel threw a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up a five-out save, No. 350 of his career.

10. The Cubs have proven they can handle the worst team in baseball. They’ve won four straight against the tanking Pirates — whose only win this season was Opening Day against the Cubs.

Next up: The Cubs are off Friday before reacquainting with the Pirates on Saturday. First pitch is 5:35 p.m. CT. Zach Davies (1-0, 3.18 ERA) and Mitch Keller (0-1, 9.00 ERA) are the probable starters.

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