PITTSBURGH -- Back when the Cubs were scoring runs like crazy for Jake Arrieta and it seemed as if the team never lost, an error or two didn't affect things and they were able to overlook an ill-timed walk. That's not the case lately.
On Friday, Pirates pinch-hitter Adam Frazier drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and scored the game-tying run as Pittsburgh tallied four runs that inning, taking advantage of two errors, en route to an 8-4 victory over Chicago at PNC Park.
"When things aren't going your way, those moments show up," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We're leaving way too many folks on base. When you're not able to score runs like we had been, everything else that's a negative is magnified. We're unable to play through our mistakes right now, and probably in the beginning of the year, we did. ... No excuses, we have to do better."
The Cubs stranded nine baserunners on Friday and have left 42 on base in the last five games, winning just one of those contests. Their lead over the Bucs in the National League Central is now 7 1/2 games.
"Before everything was pretty, and now everything is kind of ugly -- it's baseball," catcher Miguel Montero said.
Arrieta looked better on the mound despite taking the loss and serving up a season-high six runs over six-plus innings. The Pirates belted two homers in the second to take a 3-0 lead, but it was that walk to Frazier that bothered Maddon and Arrieta.
"That's the moment right there -- if [Arrieta] gets him out, I think that whole inning could've turned out differently," Maddon said.
"After that [walk], everything fell apart," Montero said.
The Pirates sent nine batters to the plate in the seventh and runs scored on a pair of RBI singles by John Jaso and Andrew McCutchen, another on a throwing error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and another came after a fielder's choice.
Arrieta was 9-1 against the Pirates -- including a 4-0 mark at PNC Park -- prior to Friday's game.
"The stuff's just not been as sharp, razor-sharp, that we've seen for such a long period of time," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Arrieta. "So we'll have some discipline at the plate, try not to jump the fastball, just hit it, make sure the spin pitches or anything else offspeed, we elevate."
The right-hander began the season 11-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his first 14 starts. He's now 1-3 in his last four games, and has given up 16 runs over 21 1/3 innings.
"More than anything, the best way to describe it is command," Maddon said of Arrieta. "Last year, we saw him nailing edges all the time. This year he doesn't have the same command."
The Pirates made it difficult, Arrieta said.
"I probably pitched to contact too much in certain situations," he said. "I need to find that happy medium of getting ahead and getting on the corners and not let breaking balls catch too much of the plate. Overall, just came up short."
Is he frustrated?
"I felt good tonight," said Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young winner who was named to his first All-Star team this week. "I had a good feel for some things, I had good direction to the plate, which helped on some things. There's some positives in there."
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.