Cubs deliver early lead, Arrieta, 'pen do the rest

Right-hander strikes out eight over six innings to beat the Nationals

Cubs deliver early lead, Arrieta, 'pen do the rest

WASHINGTON -- Jake Arrieta took advantage of an early lead and a cold Nationals offense Thursday night, tossing six impressive innings in Chicago's 2-1 win.

Before Arrieta took the mound in the first inning, he was handed a two-run lead by his offense. It was all the support he needed.

He cruised through the first four innings, allowing only three singles -- two of which were erased when the baserunners were caught stealing. Seven of the first 13 Washington outs came on strikeouts.

Arrieta, Ross get double play

"Curveball was as good as it's been all year," Arrieta said. "I was able to throw it in the middle [of the plate], but underneath the zone, at will for the most part to give the appearance of a belt-high fastball."

Play at second confirmed

In the sixth inning, Arrieta needed a Houdini act to escape with the lead.

After a strikeout of Tyler Moore, Denard Span singled and Anthony Rendon doubled to right -- Junior Lake misplayed a soft line drive, making two bases possible. Danny Espinosa was hit by a pitch to load the bases and bring Bryce Harper to the plate.

"You've got to reset the mind every pitch," Arrieta said. "So that doesn't change there, mentally."

Harper notched his 45th RBI of 2015 -- and the first Nationals run in 18 innings -- but Arrieta won the battle, inducing a chopper to Starlin Castro at shortstop for the second out. Arrieta proved a bit wild once more by hitting Ryan Zimmerman, but when first baseman Anthony Rizzo was perfectly positioned to field an Ian Desmond line drive, the inning was over with the Cubs in front, 2-1.

Rizzo snares liner

Arrieta's day ended when manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit for him in the top of the seventh. He struck out eight on the night.

From there, the game was in the hands of the bullpen. Five relievers combined for three scoreless innings, making sure not to waste the gem that came before them.

Jacob Emert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.