The Chicago Cubs advance to the National League Divisional series on the strength of a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night on the strength of Jake Arrieta’s compete game four hit shutout. Arrieta tied a club postseason record of 11 strikeouts previously set by Kerry Wood in 2003 and did not allow a single walk. Garett Cole took the loss for the Pirates who gave up all four runs on six hits, striking out four and gave up a walk.
Kyle Schwarber went 2 for 3 with an RBI single in the first inning and a two run homer in the third inning. Dexter Fowler went 3 for 4 and scored on both of Schwarber’s hits and hit a homer in the fifth inning. That is all that Arrieta would need as the Pirates only has one legitimate threat for a rally and that was in the sixth inning when they had the bases and Arrieta forced Starling Marte into a double play to end the threat.
Things got chippy in the seventh inning when Pirates reliever Tony Watson hit Arietta and the benches were cleared and Pirates utility infielder Sean Rodriguez got ejected. Arrieta hit two batters earlier in the game, however neither seemed to be intentional.
One interesting decision was made by Clint Hurdle was putting Rodriguez in the starting lineup over Pedro Alvarez for defensive purposes. I could understand that logic because Hurdle figured that it was not worth the risk of Alvarez giving up a run on a defensive error because he may capitalize on an mistake by Arrieta, but the way the Cubs pitcher was performing I didn’t see that thing like that happening anyway.
Joe Maddon on the other hand wanted to have the lineup that would give him the best firepower. Kris Bryant started in left field instead of third base where Tommy La Stella got the start, Schwarber started in right field and Miguel Montero at catcher. Maddon pressed the right buttons and they paid big dividends.
The Chicago Cubs will travel to St. Louis to start the NLDS on Friday to take on the St. Louis Cardinals 6:45 p.m. EST on TBS.
As for the Pirates they will have big decisions coming up as for what to do with 2B Neil Walker, 1B Pedro Alvarez and LHP J.A. Happ. Walker and Alvarez and heading into their final year of their arbitration before they become free agents after the 2016 season. They may be only be able to keep one after this season. If I had a choice I would choose Walker because he is a more consistent two way player and he means a lot to this city. Happ is now a free agent and there will be a lot of suitors for a left hand starting pitcher. Happ helped himself by went 7-1 with a 1.85 ERA in his past 10 starts after coming over from the Seattle Mariners at the Trade deadline.
There will be important decisions that the Pirates must make to maintain competitive in the National League Central because they not only have to deal with chasing the Cardinals, but now the are chasing the Chicago Cubs