SAN DIEGO -- Jake Arrieta won't get a chance to pitch at Dodger Stadium in the Cubs' upcoming series but on Tuesday night, he showed once again how much he likes the West Coast.
Arrieta picked up his National League-leading 16th win in a 5-3 victory over the Padres, giving up two hits over eight scoreless innings. In four starts in California this year against the Angels, Giants, Athletics and Padres, Arrieta has given up one run on 11 hits over 30 innings combined. And he's won all four of those games.
"His fastball command kept getting better game in progress," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the outing against the Padres. "That was really reminiscent of last year."
Last year, Arrieta won the Cy Young Award. This year, his stiffest competition may come from teammate, Kyle Hendricks, who has a 2.16 ERA.
But it wasn't just better command that helped Arrieta. Give the defense, specifically middle infielders Addison Russell and Javier Baez, credit as well as catcher Willson Contreras, who got the web gems started when he picked off Travis Jankowski at third base in the first. Jankowski had walked, moved up on a grounder and then stole third before Contreras got him.
"The pickoff at third was large," Maddon said. "Those kind of plays are demoralizing to the other team."
Arrieta got the Padres to hit into three double plays, and faced 25 batters over eight innings. Russell and Baez teamed on a nifty barehand toss to end the second that may have been one of the prettiest you'll see.
"When you talk about playing good baseball, pitching and defense to me come first," Maddon said.
"When you have Addison and Baez in the middle of the infield, two of the best athletes in all of baseball, you want the ball to go to those guys," Arrieta said.
The Contreras play was something the Cubs work on in Spring Training.
"That kind of set the tone," Arrieta said. "From that point on, I was able to command the strike zone and mix in some offspeed pitches. When I'm at my best, that's how I'm pitching. I'm mixing eveything from the get-go, I'm not hiding anything for later in the game."
However, he didn't get to finish. Maddon wants the rotation fresh for postseason play, so Arrieta was lifted after 99 pitches.
"I was mad at Joe for taking me out," Arrieta said. "At the same time, he said, 'Hey, remember last year? Let's conserve some things for October and the end of September.' That's our gameplan. We want to be as strong and as dominant as we can be."
This weekend, Arrieta won't be pitching at Dodger Stadium, where he threw his first career no-hitter last Aug. 30. He did pack the mustache-patterned onesie that he wore after that game. The Cubs plan on having another pajama party on Sunday when they fly back to Chicago.
"I've got to switch it up, move on," Arrieta said.
Could he win 20 games again?
"It's on the horizon," Maddon said.
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.