Cubs win 23rd straight behind Arrieta to tie mark

Cubs win 23rd straight behind Arrieta to tie mark

ST. LOUIS -- Will Jake Arrieta ever lose a game?

"I hope not," manager Joe Maddon said a few hours before Arrieta improved to 9-0 this season after the Cubs held on for a 9-8 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The Cubs now have won Arrieta's last 23 starts -- a franchise record and tying the Major League mark set by the Braves behind Kris Medlen in 2012 -- and he is the first Cubs starter to open a season 9-0 since Ken Holtzman did so in 1967.

Arrieta wasn't as cyborg-like as he has been and described his outing with a word that isn't exactly family friendly. He scattered seven hits over five innings and was charged with a season-high four runs, snapping his record run of 30 straight starts of three earned runs or fewer. The Cardinals tallied in the first on Stephen Piscotty's RBI single, marking the first the first time the right-hander had given up a run in the opening inning since last May 29 when the Royals beat him.

"I came out and felt really good," Arrieta said. "My timing was as good as it's been all year. They put some good swings on some pitches. The cutter down to Randal Grichuk that he hit out in the second wasn't a bad pitch. He put a good swing on it. Same thing with Matt Adams. I had a manageable pitch count to pitch in the game a little longer, but I got extended in the fifth.

"They had a good game plan coming in," he said of the Cardinals. "It's a good thing our offense was productive today."

Maddon is adamant that Arrieta can get better.

"He has not pitched as well as he can yet," Maddon said. "You'll see the day when he goes out with that fastball command and it'll be the eighth inning with 92 pitches and it'll be a good day."

Arrieta didn't make it to the eighth on Wednesday. He had to battle through a 29-pitch fourth, and the Cardinals loaded the bases against him in the fifth. It was his third non-quality start in 10 outings this season.

What will happen if Arrieta does lose?

"It's one of those bridges you cross when you get to it," Maddon said. "It's baseball and he's on a nice run now, a historic run. I will take a moment to sit back and think I've been watching this the whole time. As a kid, watching these other guys do this, I was really enamored by all that.

"When you stand in the corner [of the dugout] there, you don't really romanticize about the moment as if you were a kid and just [listening] on the radio, laying on the floor listening to a game or reading about it in the newspaper and following 'The Sporting News' and getting the box scores," he said. "I have to understand I'm watching something really significant right now."

Maddon admits he's a "little 'stitious, not superstitious" but hasn't been doing anything specific on days when Arrieta pitches. Then he did admit to wearing the same flamingo socks on Wednesday that he wore Tuesday when the team won, 12-3.

Will Arrieta change his routine before his next start after the rough outing?

"Maybe I'll throw left-handed or underhand," Arrieta said, tongue in cheek.

That means no.

Does Arrieta wonder what it'll be like when he does lose a game?

"Hopefully not this year," he said, and he was serious. "That's baseball. You can go out and give up one run and get the loss. We'll ride it out and see where it goes. The way we're swinging the bats and the way I'm capable of throwing on an extended period, I think we can keep it going a little longer."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com 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.