Published May 20, 2016
Mired in their first rough stretch of the season and facing the hottest team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs still have good reason to feel confident knowing Jake Arrieta is set to take the mound.
Looking to extend a franchise record by winning their 22nd consecutive regular-season game started by Arrieta, the visiting Cubs try to keep the San Francisco Giants from a ninth straight victory Friday night.
Though Chicago (28-11) owns the majors' best record, it has lost five of eight and totaled eight runs in the last four.
"You're not going to win them all, despite feeling like you can," manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs dropped two of three at Milwaukee with Thursday's 5-3 defeat.
"You're just not going to win them all."
Unless they're just talking about when Arrieta (7-0, 1.29 ERA) takes the ball.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is 18-0 with a remarkable 0.84 ERA in 21 starts since losing to Philadelphia opposite Cole Hamels' no-hitter July 25. He's the fifth pitcher in the modern era to record at least 18 straight winning regular-season decisions and his 28 consecutive starts allowing three or fewer runs is the longest streak since 1893.
Arrieta has also thrown 18 straight scoreless innings on the road, where he is 15-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 19 starts since losing at St. Louis on May 7 of last year.
''It's unusual,'' Maddon said. ''It's very unusual what he is doing.''
The right-hander seemed almost human by his own standards in giving up two earned runs for a second consecutive outing Saturday, though he struck out 11 over eight innings in an 8-2 win over Pittsburgh.
Arrieta allowed an unearned run and fanned 14 while walking three in 13 2/3 innings to win both 2015 starts against San Francisco (25-18). Chicago won the first five meetings with the Giants last season before losing the final two at AT&T Park.
With the Cubs' hot start and San Francisco knocking on the door of its first nine-game winning streak in 12 years, there is plenty of early intrigue surrounding this series.
"We're tough to beat, and they're good, too," Arrieta told MLB's official website. "We're going to be ready."
Buster Posey is 1 for 9 and Brandon Crawford 0 for 8 with four strikeouts against Arrieta, but Hunter Pence is 3 for 7.
Pence is batting .333 with five RBIs in six games and Crawford went 4 for 11 with two home runs and drove in five at San Diego this week. One of those homers came as the Giants completed a 7-0 trip with Thursday's 3-1 victory.
"They're pros, they play the game right," Maddon said. "It's going to be fun."
San Francisco's starters have a 1.44 ERA in the last nine games.
That included perhaps Jake Peavy's best start of 2016 on Saturday, when he allowed a run and three hits over six innings while receiving a no-decision in the 5-3 victory at Arizona.
''Really, he backed off a little, didn't put as much effort into it, really had a smooth delivery going,'' manager Bruce Bochy said.
Peavy (1-4, 7.43), who turns 35 on May 31, has a 2.96 ERA while splitting his last four starts against the Cubs.
Kris Bryant went 3 for 4 with a double against the right-hander last season.
Ben Zobrist's lone hit in his last 12 at-bats against Peavy left the park. He's batting .405 with 20 walks in his last 23 games.