CHICAGO -- Through the first three innings Tuesday night against the Mets, Cubs starter Jake Arrieta threw 27 pitches, and 25 were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to all but one batter in that stretch.
"That's when I'm at my best, when I'm challenging guys right away from the first pitch and putting them on the defensive side and making them swing the bat," Arrieta said. "I expect to pitch more like this as far as the aggressiveness and keeping the ball down in the strike zone."
That's what the Cubs are hoping for. Arrieta did not get a decision in the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Mets at Wrigley Field, but he did make a statement: He's back.
"That was a little more like it," Arrieta said after striking out eight and giving up one run over seven innings. "I was really aggressive in the strike zone and using my offspeed pretty well throughout the game.
"It was a tough game overall," he said. "[Mets starter Noah] Syndergaard on the other side, he was good. He made some good pitches and he's a tough one to hit. A 2-1 game, we had a couple chances. If I hit the ball over the fence or I'm a little quicker around third base, it might be a different story. It was just a tough game."
He did double with two outs in the fourth off Syndergaard but did not score -- a recurring theme for the Cubs on this night as they went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base. His baserunning was an issue that inning as he tried to score from second on Tommy La Stella's single but was thrown out at home by right fielder Michael Conforto, although Arrieta was first called safe and the call was overturned after review.
"I was moving at a pretty good clip for me," Arrieta said of the play. "I didn't see the replay. I'm assuming they made a pretty solid play from receiving the ball to the throw and then the tag. Looking back, I could have tried to get the hand over the tag, but that's not a play I'm involved in very often."
What the Cubs prefer to have Arrieta focus on is his pitching. This was his first outing of at least seven innings since June 11 at Atlanta. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Arrieta was the fastest to 25 strikes by any starting pitcher this season.
He was coming off one of his worst outings, July 8, when he gave up six runs over six innings against the Pirates. He has four losses in his last eight starts. In his previous 39 games combined, Arrieta was 28-4 with a 1.59 ERA.
Because Arrieta had time off, Cubs manager Joe Maddon predicted the right-hander would feel as if it were the first day of Spring Training.
"You saw the pitch numbers, the consistent strike throwing with the fastball and you saw the swing and miss on the slider and changeup," Maddon said. "For all pitchers, everything plays off the fastball and fastball command, and he had it and looked outstanding."
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.