Ace allows season highs in runs, walks on night he hits 1 of Cubs' 5 homers
By Cody Pace
CINCINNATI -- In a rare feat for Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, his performance in the batter's box overshadowed his performance on the mound Monday night.
Arrieta hasn't been his dominant self of late, and that trend continued in Monday's 11-8 win over the Reds. The ace gave up a season-high five runs over five innings and walked a season-high five batters. At the plate, though, Arrieta helped his own cause by going 2-for-3, including a 381-foot home run in the fifth inning, according to Statcast™, his second homer of the season and fourth of his career.
"At the plate, I still want to try and produce," Arrieta said. "You don't want to go up there and take that left turn back to the dugout. You want to try and contribute any way possible."
While the home run was nice, Arrieta's job is to get outs on the mound, and he struggled to do that. His problem hasn't been that he's getting hit particularly hard -- he gave up four knocks to the Reds, two of which were extra-base hits. He was again plagued by free passes, and he has now walked 20 batters over his last 40 innings.
"Struggling with the command," manager Joe Maddon said. "You look at the [radar] guns and the readings and the boards, everything's normal. He's just not on top of his fastball regarding where it's going, and that's it. There's nothing else. Once he ... like I say that, I'm kind of turning into a broken record. That's what I've been seeing for maybe a month now. Fortunately he's not hurt. His stuff's still really good. It's just about locating it and command of it."
Fastball command and offspeed command have both been postulated as culprits behind Arrieta's difficulty to find the strike zone, but Maddon said Arrieta just needs a "light-bulb moment," and Arrieta insists that it's an easy fix and just about timing.
"When I see guys up there just auto-take first pitch, and I'm out of the strike zone, that's what I put the emphasis on," Arrieta said. "Aggressiveness early in the count is something I have to establish and get back to. But there's worse problems to have. It's a hundredth of a second or a tenth of a second off and the timing to get back to that spot."
Even with the command problems, it's hard to peg Arrieta as struggling as much as he is underperforming. Even in his walk-plagued 40-inning stretch, he's posted a 3.38 ERA and has 48 strikeouts. Arrieta is confident that he'll find his way again.