Cubs pick up Arrieta following rare off outing

Righty exits after just 5 innings, but his teammates rally for win

Cubs pick up Arrieta following rare off outing

CHICAGO -- Usually on days when Jake Arrieta is pitching, the Cubs' bullpen can relax.

"When Jake starts, I feel like we can take a nap until the seventh or eighth innings," Cubs reliever Trevor Cahill said.

On Sunday, it was all hands on deck as Arrieta was lifted after five innings against a pesky Nationals team. The 'pen picked him up, as did Javier Baez, who hit a walk-off home run with one out in the 13th in a 4-3 Chicago win over Washington.

"An incredible series and a pretty special way to end it the way Javy did today," Arrieta said of the Cubs' sweep of the Nationals in this showdown between two of the top teams in the Majors.

Chicago manager Joe Maddon wasn't surprised at how the entire roster contributed.

"The whole group is complementing each other," Maddon said. "Nobody is worried about credit or other crazy stuff. We're just worried about winning, and that's why we're playing so well."

Arrieta on sweep of Nationals

Arrieta didn't pitch poorly, he just struggled with his command and had to exit after throwing 100 pitches.

"He had great stuff, not good stuff," Maddon said of the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. "His stuff was outstanding. But his command of his stuff wasn't very good today. That's what put us behind the eight ball."

"He's been so good for so long, you know he's going to have these starts," Cahill said. "People don't realize he didn't have his stuff and he still goes five [innings] and gave up two earned runs. Being a starter myself, you're like, 'Wow.' His stuff wasn't there and he went five innings, two runs against one of the better lineups in the league. That's the crazy part. He's given us so many rest days, so it's our job to pick him up."

The Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers, but Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Clayton Richard weren't available, and Neil Ramirez had just returned from his grandmother's funeral. Maddon called on everyone else. Cahill had to bat for himself in the seventh, and he delivered a single, which surprised him. He didn't have a pink bat as part of the Mother's Day festivities. Relievers don't get them.

"He does swing the bat well," Maddon said of Cahill. "Let's take our chances with him right there."

Maddon should have bought a Powerball ticket. Bench player Ryan Kalish, who missed all of last season because of injuries, delivered a key RBI hit on Saturday. Baez, who has started nine games, came through Sunday.

Baez's walk-off home run

Arrieta was on the verge of suffering his first loss since last July 25, but then Kris Bryant hit a two-run single in the seventh to tie the game. Even though Arrieta did not get a decision, the Cubs have won a franchise-record 20 straight games that he's started. The Nationals scored runs off him in three straight innings, which had never happened in Arrieta's 74 career starts with the Cubs.

"Those guys on the other side had some good at-bats and handled certain counts very well and got it to a point where I had to come in the zone where they were looking, or I was out of the zone, and they ended up in a more favorable count," Arrieta said. "You've got to tip your cap every once in a while."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.