ST. LOUIS: After Jake Arrieta escaped on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) with his winning streak intact, the Cubs’ ace still had his sense of humor after showing some vulnerability.
“I’ll maybe throw left-handed or underhand,” Arrieta deadpanned after allowing four earned runs for the first time in 30 starts. “No. Same deal.”
Many of Arrieta’s impressive streaks remained intact, if only because the Cubs’ offense provided enough production and the bullpen shut down a pesky Cardinals offense to hold on for a 9-8 victory at warm Busch Stadium.
With the victory, the Cubs earned their third consecutive series triumph at St. Louis while salvaging a 4-5 three-city trip.
“A great way to end an average trip,” said Kris Bryant. “That sums it up.”
Arrieta improved to 9-0 this season to match Ken Holtzman’s start for the Cubs in 1967 despite his ERA swelling from 1.29 to 1.72.
“I picked a good day to be (lousy),” Arrieta said.
He credited the Cardinals’ hitters and expressed his appreciation for a six-run second. Bryant provided the winning cushion with a three-run homer in the sixth that loomed large after the Cardinals rallied for four runs in the sixth and seventh innings after Arrieta was relieved.
Despite his worst outing in more than 11 months, Arrieta extended his consecutive victory streak to 20 decisions. Arrieta improved to 25-1 with a 1.13 ERA in 30 starts beginning on June 21, 2015. In winning his last 23 starts, the Cubs tied the major league record according to Elias.
That stretch started after Arrieta allowed four runs in a loss to the Indians — the last time he allowed more than three runs in a start before Wednesday.
“Things got away from me a little bit,” Arrieta said.
The trouble started on Stephen Piscotty’s two-out RBI single — marking the first time Arrieta allowed a run in the first inning since May 29, 2015, against the Royals.
Randal Grichuk’s homer in the second was the first homer Arrieta had allowed in 562/3 innings against the Cardinals.
Manager Joe Maddon was ready to pull Arrieta in the fifth if he had loaded the bases with slugger Matt Adams coming up, but the right-hander managed to avoid that situation and qualify for the victory thanks to Tommy La Stella.
With the bases loaded later and two outs, La Stella made a diving stop of Grichuk’s hard grounder and fired to second for a force to protect the 6-4 lead.
“That was the play of the game,” Bryant said.
Arrieta put his streak in perspective as he’s lined up to make his next start Tuesday night against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
“You can give up one run and it’s a loss,” Arrieta said. “We’ll ride it out and see where it goes.
“But the way we’re swinging the bats and the way I’m capable of throwing on an extended (rest), we can keep it going a little longer.”
Closer Hector Rondon had a little trouble in the ninth inning in his first appearance since May 18 and his first save opportunity since May 10.
Rondon allowed singles to Piscotty and Adams to open the ninth but rebounded with strikeouts of Yadier Molina and Grichuk. He then knocked down Jedd Gyorko’s grounder and regained his balance in time to throw to first to secure the victory.
“[Arrieta] is 9-0, and he has been struggling a bit,” Maddon said. “That’s not bad.”