Righty tosses eight stellar innings on anniversary of trade from Orioles
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- Two years ago to the day, Jake Arrieta left Baltimore a disappointing talent, a thinly bearded prospect that never panned out. There was potential in his formidable frame and rocket right arm -- he just couldn't command it, to ugly results. So when Chicago acquired him and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, Arrieta was excited about the change of scenery.
"This is something that's going to do me a lot of good," he said then.
The way he pitched in Thursday's 6-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field wasn't just a testament to how correct Arrieta was. It was also a performance representative of his rapid and complete transformation. Once a throwaway, Arrieta is now a fully bearded stopper. He became the third Cubs pitcher of the week to carve up the Mets, scattering five hits over eight steady innings, striking out seven with nine groundouts.
Arrieta dipped his ERA into the National League's top 10; it now sits at 2.80 to complement an 8-5 record and strong All-Star candidacy. Comparing his numbers between then and now is almost mind-numbing. Arrieta is 22-12 with a 2.81 ERA in parts of three seasons with Chicago after suffering through a 20-25 record and 5.46 ERA in four years with the Orioles.
"It's like night and day," Arrieta said.
The transformation can be explained in simple terms. Since coming to Chicago, Arrieta has walked fewer batters and struck more out each year. His fastball velocity has increased -- he hit 97 mph on occasion Thursday -- as has his stamina. Manager Joe Maddon considered letting Arrieta finish the ninth Thursday before Miguel Montero's late homer broke the game open, making his presence unnecessary.
Maddon, who faced Arrieta often as a manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, notices other differences in his stuff as well.
"You watch the break on the breaking ball," Maddon said. "It almost looks like absurdly different. It almost looks like a whiffle ball the way it breaks so much from the side.
"He had outstanding stuff. You watch the quality of the swings from the other team."
The righty was on from the jump Thursday, striking out the first two batters he faced and five of the first nine. Only three Mets managed to hit a ball to the outfield against Arrieta, and one of them, opposing pitcher Jacob deGrom, knew what was coming.
"I told deGrom yesterday, it'll be all heaters unless there are guys in scoring position," Arrieta admitted.
There weren't, and deGrom smacked an opposite field double off the wall in left center. Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI double.
Besides that, he kept the Mets -- like most of the National League -- guessing.
Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.