His performance may not have been all that he wanted, but Jake Arrieta can’t argue with the results.
Arrieta held the Philadelphia Phillies to three hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings, leading the Cubs to a 7-1 victory Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Coming off two rough outings in a row, Arrieta (2-1) rebounded to earn his second victory with the Cubs. He’s now 2-1 with a 3.77 earned-run average since coming to Chicago on July 2 in a trade with Baltimore.
Still, he wasn’t completely happy with Sunday’s effort.
“I would like to be better at first-pitch strikes, be more aggressive right out of the gate,” Arrieta said. “That’s something I wasn’t very happy with today.”
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Arrieta finished with three walks and four strikeouts and gave up a home run. He appeared to be running out of gas in the sixth inning when he walked two batters as the Phillies put runners on the corners with two outs.
But that threat ended quickly when Cody Asche grounded out to shortstop Starlin Castro on Arrieta’s first offering.
“Walks are going to happen, but for me if I can do as good of a job as I can at establishing strike one, the walks will be down,” said Arrieta, who surrendered 10 runs on 13 hits in nine total innings in his previous two starts. “That’s the most important thing, stay on the aggressive side of the attack. When I do that, things fall in my favor more times than not.”
With the season now in its final month, many Cubs are positioning themselves for roster spots in 2014. Arrieta figures to be a good candidate for the starting rotation.
“When he’s in the zone, he’s pretty tough,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That ball’s heavy, and when he gets command of that cutter, that thing is going to be a pretty powerful pitch in the league.”
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Chicago (58-78) won back-to-back home games for the first time since winning three consecutive from July 6-9. The victory also gave the Cubs their first series win at home since taking two-of-three games from Pittsburgh on July 5-7.
Welington Castillo connected on a two-run double during the decisive fourth inning to pace the Cubs offense, which is averaging 5.4 runs in their past seven home games.
Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney also drove in runs, and Ryan Sweeney added a two-out, RBI single in his return from the 60-day disabled list. Pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena drew a bases-loaded walk and Starlin Castro added an RBI sacrifice fly as Chicago tacked on two runs in the eighth to cement the victory.
“We put together some good hits today,” said Sweeney, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a run, along with the RBI. “I swung at some good pitches, just missed a couple, but overall felt good today.”
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After facing former Cy Young Award winners in four of their previous five starts, the Cubs jumped on Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick (10-12).
Kendrick gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings. He walked only one and had four strikeouts, but three of those came when he struck out the side against the bottom of Chicago’s order in the second inning.
Chicago’s bullpen looked strong again, one day after closing the doors on the Phillies in a 4-3 win Saturday. Russell, Pedro Strop and Blake Parker limited the Phillies to one hit and one walk over the final 2 1/3 innings.
On Saturday, the bullpen tossed four scoreless innings, lowering its ERA to 2.86 over the previous seven games.
The Cubs had lost seven consecutive (0-5-2) series at home prior to this weekend. They open a three-game series with Miami on Monday at Wrigley as their nine-game, 10-day homestand continues.
“It’s been quite a while to win the back-end of a series, to win a series, especially at home,” Sveum said. “Hopefully we can stay on roll here and do some damage.”