ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta was supposed to be spraying champagne to celebrate the Cubs' second straight National League Central title on Tuesday night. Instead, the right-hander took the loss, and he left the team with more questions regarding how well he'd be able to pitch in October.
"I've got 170 innings [for the season]," said Arrieta, who is officially at 168 1/3. "I'm good."
What wasn't good was the right-hander's outing in the Cubs' 8-7 loss to the Cardinals. He scattered six hits, walked one and struck out four.
"Things just weren't working, sharpness-wise," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "I didn't see anything overtly crisp, velocity or location or anything. It was not his night."
It didn't help that shortstop Mike Freeman committed an error which extended the three-run first inning. Arrieta needed 35 pitches to get through the first and threw 67 in the game. This was his second start since he had to come out of a Sept. 4 outing because of a right hamstring injury, which is still having an effect on him.
"I've had to adjust a couple things in my delivery," Arrieta said of the repercussions of the hamstring problem. "It's still there a little bit, but I'm fine. I'm plenty healthy enough to go out there and compete and pitch at a high level. I just wasn't able to do that tonight unfortunately. Like I said, they had some good at-bats and made me work."
What's the difference?
"I don't have the drive that I do at 100 percent," he said, "but there's still plenty enough to be effective. The velocity was really good tonight. Stuff's not an issue. Tonight, what sticks out was a couple pitches I left out over the plate, and they did some damage with it."
The one that nagged him was Tommy Pham's two-run homer in the second inning. Arrieta's TCU teammate Matt Carpenter also connected on a leadoff homer. Carpenter came into the game 1-for-32 against Arrieta, and that hit also was a home run.
What's more troubling is that Arrieta doesn't have much time left to get stretched out for the postseason. He has not thrown 100 or more pitches since July 15.
"It's going to be difficult," Maddon said. "We'll see how he feels and go from there. We were really looking to get more [innings] than that, I agree. I thought that was a lot of pitches for three innings. To get him out, I thought was the right move.
"Of course, he's not 100 [percent]. He's doing fine. He's Jake. He's very strong and in great shape. Let's let him have a couple days off and bring him back again. It just wasn't his night, and he's working his way back in."
Tuesday's loss was Arrieta's 10th of the year, and it's the first time in his career that the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner has reached double-digit losses. This was his second-shortest outing of the season.
Arrieta knows what he wants in that final outing at Wrigley Field on Sunday against the Reds.
"You want some good results moving into October," Arrieta said. "[I just want] to go out there and feel close to 100 percent and feel good about the outing moving into my first postseason start. Tonight was up and down physically. I didn't feel great, and that's just how it goes.
"I intend to do everything I can in the next four days to recover and be ready Sunday and go from there. There's still some recovering to do, but having said that, I'm plenty healthy enough to go out there and be really good."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.