Bob Nightengale: ‘No One Wants To Play Arrieta’

In a possible Wild Card preview, the Cubs beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh, 3-2, in 12 innings on Wednesday. While Jake Arrieta failed to pick up his 20th win of the season, he was still dominant, allowing one earned run in eight innings.

Arrieta, 29, has been downright filthy this season. He’s 19-6 with a 1.96 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and has 209 strikeouts in 207 innings.

His post-All-Star numbers? Even filthier. Arrieta is 9-1 with a 0.95 ERA since the break.

“Arrieta has just been unbelievable,” USA Today MLB columnist Bob Nightengale said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Gerrit Cole has been great too, but not like this guy. This guy is putting up some historic numbers. No one’s been better since June 21 than this guy. He’s putting up a (sub-1.00) ERA in the second half, so I think it’d be very scary for whoever pays the Cubs in that Wild Card game. They’re not going to win the division, so it’s up to the Pirates to try to win the division because no one wants to play Arrieta.”

Indeed, the Cubs (84-61) trail the Cardinals (91-54) by seven games in the NL Central with just 17 games to play. They also trail the Pirates (87-58) by three games for home-field advantage in the Wild Card, but at this point, the Cubs don’t care where they play; as long as Arrieta is on the hill, they have to like their chances.

As great as Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw have been this season, Arrieta has to win the Cy Young, right? Greinke is 17-3 with a 1.61 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP and has 182 strikeouts in 200.2 innings.

“Well, as every pitcher would tell you, they’d rather have 20 wins and a 3.00 ERA than 10 wins and a 1.50 ERA,” Nightengale said. “Twenty is still such a special number even in today’s age. I still got to think it goes to Geinke, but now it’s getting so, so close. All it’s going to take is one Greinke hiccup. And if Arrieta keeps this up, he’s going to win that thing. It’s up to Greinke to keep this thing going. Neither guy can afford a blemish, and here’s Kershaw on the outside looking in. He’s probably hoping for some Arrieta blemishes so he can at least finish 1-2 with Greinke.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps Kershaw is just hoping he can avoid the playoff meltdowns he’s endured the last couple of seasons.

What will happen to Kershaw in the postseason this year?

“Well, he’ll be facing the Mets this time and not the Cardinals first round,” Nightengale said. “I remember Barry Bonds used to have some bad playoffs and then all of a sudden he just ripped it off against the Angels and was a monster ever since come clutch time. I thought it was interesting what Terry Collins said the other day. They really want to win home field over the Dodgers because who wants to face Greinke and Kershaw in the shadows at Dodger Stadium? That’s a huge advantage they can get in New York rather than Dodger Stadium. I think (Kershaw will) be fine and he (wouldn’t) be facing the Cardinals until (potentially) the (NLCS). It’s just one of those things. He did pitch lights-out against the Cardinals last year. Just around the 7th inning or so, that’s when he got beat up.”

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