When the Orioles drafted right-hander Jake Arrieta in the fifth round in 2007 out of TCU, they envisioned that he would pitch one day big games for them.
He'll pitch one tonight, but for the Chicago Cubs. Chicago (97-65) plays at Pittsburgh (98-64) in the National League wild card game. The winner advances to face St. Louis (100-62) in the National League Division Series.
Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) will pitch against Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole (19-8, 2.60) at 8:08 p.m. at PNC Park. On July 2, 2013, the Orioles traded Arrieta, reliever Pedro Strop and cash to the Cubs for pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger. At the time of that deal, Arrieta was 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five 2013 starts for the Orioles.
But this year, he has been outstanding, and lately he has taken his pitching to a remarkable level. Arrieta went 10-0 with an ERA of 0.44 in 11 starts since Aug. 1. In five starts versus Pittsburgh this year, he is 3-1 with an ERA of 0.75. Cole went 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA this season in four starts against the Cubs. Pittsburgh is 7-1 in his nine career starts against Chicago.
Arrieta is getting a lot of attention for his remarkable season, but in Cole he is facing a pitcher that beat Tim Lincecum in his major league debut and Zack Greinke in his second start. This season, Cole has started wins against Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.
Cole was the first player taken in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He made the All-Star team for the first time this season and also became the first Pittsburgh pitcher to get to 19 wins since 1991. Does Arrieta have another big game in him tonight?
Arrieta with the Orioles: 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA and 1.472 WHIP
Arrieta with the Cubs: 36-13 with a 2.26 ERA and 0.940 WHIP
The Cubs, who feature six players 25 or under that got 200 or more plate appearances, head into the postseason on a roll. They have won eight in a row and 15 of 19. The Cubs' 2.73 team ERA led the NL in September. The Pirates went 10-3 in their last 13 games.
The Cubs are looking for their first World Series title since 1908, while the Pirates are looking for their first since 1979. I can't seem to remember which team they beat then.
More Jake: My take on Arrieta is that he needed a change of scenery and a fresh start with another team, and that has been big for him. Some fans disagree with me and feel the Cubs made adjustments with him or changes that the Orioles couldn't or wouldn't do.
In this article/interview from late in the 2012 season, Arrieta discussed the mental part of the game with me. As an Oriole, I felt he often did some overthinking and overanalysis of his pitching. At times, it seemed, he couldn't get out of his own way and let his talent shine through. Maybe he finally found the right mental approach.
In that interview, he said:
"Think everyone is pretty aware that most of the adjustment phase (for me) was strictly mental. I don't say that because I was a mentally weak player. I feel like it was just a thought process that was overly thought. I put way too much into my head going into a game or a side session and just created some of that fogginess or confusion in my head throughout the course of a game. The philosophies of the mental side of the game are fairly simple to understand, but a little harder to apply."