Right-hander Jake Arrieta dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates in what was his career's biggest moment yet as the Chicago Cubs had no problem beating the Pirates in the 2015 National League Wild Card playoff. Arrieta went the distance and struck out eleven batters, Kyle Schwarber contributed with three RBIs, and the Cubs advanced to the NLDS with a 4-0 win at PNC Park.
Chicago managed to chase Gerrit Cole early and frequently, as they made Pittsburgh’s ace work harder than expected right from the start. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a single and Schwarber plated him home with a single to deep left field to give Chicago a one-run lead just ten pitches into the game. The rookie outfielder - who played in right field Wednesday night in an attempt by Joe Maddon to limit his defensive exposure - knocked a majestic 450-foot two-run bomb out of PNC Park to make it 3-0 for Chicago after three innings.
Arrieta, on the other hand, was simply cruising his way towards the Pirates’ lineup. After allowing a single to Andrew McCutchen in the first, he didn’t allow another runner to reach base until the fifth inning, when he plunked Francisco Cervelli. Prior to that hit-by-pitch, the Cubs added their fourth and final run on a solo shot from Fowler. The 29 year-old had himself a nice day, going 3-for-4 with three runs and an RBI.
Maddon was certainly pleased with Arrieta’s performance and he made it known on an in-game interview from the dugout on TBS.
"Jake is looking like Jake," he said. "The ball is really jumping out of his hand from down here. The velocity is good. All his pitches look really good. You can see the slider is really effective."
Josh Harrison was plunked in the sixth and the Bucs’ decided to take the matter into their own hands when Arrieta was hit back by Tony Watson. Tempers flared, both benches cleared and there were some punches thrown that led to Sean Rodriguez being ejected.
The rest of the game was practically stress-free for the Cubs. Although they didn’t get a single hit the rest of the way, Arrieta was simply dominant and he had no problems to shut down Pittsburgh’s offense completely. He finished the game with only four hits allowed, no walks and 11 strikeouts to cap off an absolutely stellar performance.
With the win, the Cubs clinched their first postseason win since 2003, and now they will have one day to rest ahead of the NLDS where they will face another NL Central foe in the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pirates, on the other hand, lost in the Wild Card game for the third straight season and will head into the offseason with more questions than answers. They were completely shut down in their most important game of the year.