PITTSBURGH: Jake Arrieta struck out 11 in a four-hit shutout as the Chicago Cubs advanced to the NL Division series by beating Pittsburgh 4-0 in a winner-take-all wild-card contest on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
The Cubs have now won 14 straight Major League Baseball games started by Arrieta, who also tied Kerry Woods’ franchise record for most strikeouts in a playoff game.
“It was one game do-or-die and one of us had to go and that’s how it ended,” Arrieta said. “It was a tremendous night.”
Chicago advances to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the postseason which begins Friday in St. Louis.
The Cubs have won nine straight games, including the regular season, and allowed just nine runs in that span.
Arrieta didn’t allow a walk in his first playoff start and he received offensive support from Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber, both of whom hit home runs in front of a crowd of 41,000 at PNC Park.
“I am exhausted. I haven’t felt this way all year,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta also got plunked by Pirates pitcher Tony Wilson during his turn at the plate in the seventh. The benches emptied as players from both teams spilled onto the field but no serious punches were thrown.
Arrieta went 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA in 15 starts following the all-star break as he finished the regular season leading the league in wins with a 22-6 record. He also pitched 22 scoreless innings while winning his final three regular-season starts.
“We came out and fought early and got one on the board,” Arrieta said. “It was pound the zone, and try to get as many strikeouts as possible.
“I tried to keep the ball down to force contact. I had to get out of a couple of jams.”
The Pirates were shut out in the wild-card game for the second year in a row despite having the second-best record during the regular season at 98-64. The Cardinals (100-62) had the league’s best record, and the Cubs (97-65) were third best. All are members of the NL Central Division.
The top two hitters in the Cubs’ batting order, center fielder Fowler and rookie right fielder Schwarber, combined to go five-for-seven with four runs and four RBIs.
Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole took the loss. He allowed all four runs and six hits in five innings with one walk and four strikeouts.
Pirates lost Sean Rodriguez, ejected following the plunking of Arrieta, who was hit on the hip.
‘I just lost it’
Arrieta hit catcher Francisco Cervelli and third baseman Josh Harrison with pitches earlier in the game.
“I hit two guys. I never try to hurt anybody,” Arrieta said. “I just lost it a couple of times. I expected that they are going to take care of their own guys.”
Championship starved Cubs fans are hoping this young team will finally bring them a winner as it has been 107 years since their last championship.
“It has been a while. It is tremendous for the city. We will carry this momentum into St. Louis,” Arrieta said.