CLEVELAND -- After an historic run in the second half of 2015 that propelled him to the National League Cy Young Award and a dominant first half this season, Jake Arrieta spent much of the second half looking, well, above average.
Considering the pace Arrieta was on, perhaps it would have been unfair to expect him to keep it up. But after he looked so superhuman for so long, some folks do wonder what changed. Arrieta is not among them.
He has the opportunity to put that all behind him when he starts Game 2 of the World Series tonight in Cleveland, trying to pull the Cubs even after a 6-0 loss in Game 1 on Tuesday night. Arrieta still shows flashes of that brilliance and possesses the ability to deliver another dominant performance.
It leaves the Cubs feeling confident despite a 1-0 series deficit. After all, they can send the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner to the mound.
"It's very relaxing," third baseman Kris Bryant said. "Jake, he's pitched in some pretty big games going back to last year, so it's nice to know that he's going tomorrow and then [Kyle Hendricks] the next [game]."
One of those big games came in the NL Wild Card Game last season, when Arrieta tossed a shutout to beat the Pirates. The expectations grew for him, with that performance as an exclamation point after posting a 0.75 ERA in the second half, the lowest mark in Major League history.
Performances such as those also made his 3.69 ERA in the second half this season seem as if it were a letdown. But Arrieta still posted a strong season, with a 3.10 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
"I'd like to pencil in nine innings every time I go out, but it's a matter of just trying to stay in the process and understanding that sometimes things aren't going to go your way," Arrieta said. "Sometimes it's going to be an extended period of time where you're not as good as you'd like to be, but the mindset is always to perform and to prepare the same way."
The last 14 times a team has won Game 1 of the World Series at home, it has gone on to win the World Series. But these Cubs have spent the entire season and postseason making their own history, and they still feel good about splitting the first two games on the road.
And their Game 2 starter is a big reason why they feel confident in that ability. He has struggled in his first two postseason starts this year, allowing six runs in 11 innings, with 10 strikeouts and one walk, but that will be easily forgotten with dominant performance Wednesday night in his first career start in the World Series.
"I think what you really learn with the more experience you get in the postseason is the finer details," Arrieta said. "Controlling the running game, not allowing mental mistakes to -- not allowing your opponent to capitalize on your mental mistakes. Because, obviously at this point in the season, the team that makes the fewest mistakes typically wins the ballgames."
Jamal Collier has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.