By Meghan Montemurro
CHICAGO – Every time Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta steps on the mound, he's battling more than just that day's opponent.
Struggles controlling his pitches has plagued Arrieta during his four years in the majors, part of the reason the Baltimore Orioles were so willing to part with the hard-throwing 27-year-old as part of the July 2 trade to acquire Scott Feldman. And as has happened too often in his career, walks came back to doom Arrieta Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
[Cubs notebook: Rookie Junior Lake draws Sveum's praise]
Given a two-run cushion against one of the worst teams in baseball, Arrieta’s renowned command issues made an ill-timed appearance.
Arrieta allowed the first four Brewers to reach base to start the fourth, resulting in Milwaukee’s first run. With the bases loaded and only one out after he struck out Juan Francisco, Logan Schafer made Arrieta pay for his inability to locate his pitches. Schafer hit a bases clearing, stand-up triple to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead and ruined what had been a good outing for Arrieta.
The Cubs’ offense couldn’t muster much against Milwaukee right-hander Johnny Hellweg in a 5-3 loss Saturday.
"First and foremost, I got a little too fine with those couple of walks and then I got myself in a situation," Arrieta said. "The situation where I was 2-0 (to Schafer) bases loaded, I had to come at him. I left a sinker right over the plate."
Hellweg (1-3) held the Cubs to three runs on four hits in six innings to earn his first big league win. Brewers closer Jim Henderson recorded his 23rd save in 27 chances with a perfect ninth. The Brewers (61-80) were outhit by the Cubs in the win.
"It's something we're trying to get a grip on because it's been a problem of a couple good pitches, get strikes on guys and not make a pitch to put somebody out with," manager Dale Sveum said of Arrieta.
Luis Valbuena’s 10th home run of the season gave the Cubs (60-81) a 2-0 lead in the second. However, the Cubs managed only three more hits – including a solo homer by Brian Bogusevic in the sixth – in the final seven innings. Bogusevic’s home run brought the Cubs within a run at 4-3, but two baserunners were thrown out in the seventh to end a comeback attempt. Welington Castillo was easily thrown out at second trying to unwisely turn a single into a double to start the inning. Pinch hitter Junior Lake then singled but was thrown out on a steal attempt.
"It would have been nice to do more," Bogusevic said. "We play a lot of close ballgames, sometimes we don't come out on top. We're in it. We're fighting. We just couldn't pull it out today."
Arrieta (2-2) lasted only five innings after surrendering four runs on three hits. He walked three batters, all in the Brewers’ four-run fourth, and struck out four on 83 pitches (49 strikes). Although he hasn't thrown enough innings to qualify, Arrieta's 1.45 WHIP would be tied with Boston's Ryan Dempster for the fourth highest in the majors.
"I backed myself into a corner with those walks," Arrieta said. "I still had chances to get out of it...Just didn't do a good enough job today."
Reliever Chang-Yong Lim made his major league debut with one out in the seventh to become the 54th player to appear for Cubs this year, breaking the franchise record set last year. He gave up a hit and walked a batter but escaped the inning thanks to a double play.