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3 takeaways on the Chicago Cubs’ 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, including Jake Arrieta’s return and Joc Pederson vs. lefties

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 5/15/2021 Meghan Montemurro, Chicago Tribune

Kris Bryant didn’t show any lingering issues from getting hit by a pitch three days ago.

Bryant’s two-run homer in the third inning Friday night put the Chicago Cubs ahead early en route to a 4-2 win against the Detroit Tigers. Bryant missed most of the two-game midweek series in Cleveland because he was sick. When he pinch hit in Wednesday’s game, he was drilled on his left wrist. But it didn’t prevent him from starting Friday. Bryant picked up where he left off as one of baseball’s top offensive performers six weeks into the season.

“I think I’ve kind of showed that throughout my career that when I got called up, basically pitchers know how to pitch a little bit better inside,” Bryant said. “So I had to figure out how to pull the ball a little bit better and pull it in the air. I use my swing to my advantage.”

Along with Bryant returning to the lineup, infielder Nico Hoerner and right-hander Jake Arrieta were activated from the injured list before the game.

Friday’s win snapped a three-game losing streak. Here are three takeaways from the game.

1. Jake Arrieta returned to his pre-cut form in first start off the IL as rotation starts to turn around.

Coming into the season, right-hander Jake Arrieta projected as a veteran who could give the Cubs innings and give the rotation added depth as a mid-tier starter. That was if he could stay healthy and recapture some of his mojo from his first go-around with the team.

After a six-inning, two-run performance against the Tigers, Arrieta didn’t show signs of being hampered by a cut on his thumb that cost him a start. Instead, through seven starts, Arrieta has been the Cubs most consistent starter. Take away Arrieta’s outing in Cincinnati when he unsuccessfully tried to pitch with the cut (seven runs in 3 ⅓ innings) and he has a 2.65 ERA.

Cubs manager David Ross thought about letting Arrieta go back out for the seventh, but instead turned to the bullpen and didn’t potentially put Arrieta in a tough spot. The Tigers hit back-to-back two-out homers off Arrieta in the sixth.

“The thumb really wasn’t an issue, I was a little stale though,” Arrieta said after Friday’s start. “But I threw a lot of good sinkers and induced quite a bit of weak contact. They were swinging early and often, which is a good sign, pitching down low and should have gotten deeper in the game but it is what it is.”

If the rest of the rotation continues its turnaround and keeps trending in the right direction, Arrieta will have played an important stabilizing role. Arrieta expects over the course of the season for everything to even out for the rotation.

2. A locked-in Joc Pederson is connecting against left-handers.

One of the main driving forces that brought Joc Pederson to Chicago in the offseason was an opportunity to play everyday, which meant getting to face left-handers — something that became increasingly rare over the course of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In Friday’s win, Pederson had another three-hit game, his fourth in eight games since returning from the IL due to left wrist tendinitis.

“When he can kind of open up that that left side of the field — that’s going to play well for him,” Bryant said of Pederson. “Not to mention he’s right on top of the plate too. So when you kind of get in the pitchers head a little bit, they’re more likely to miss away in a spot that he wants the ball. So he’s kind of forced their hand to pitch him where he wants to.”

Tigers starting left-hander Tarik Skubal didn’t prompt a lineup change Friday, as Ross continues to roll with Pederson when a lefty is on the mound.

Pederson is 6-for-7 this month versus left-handers this month after tallying two hits off Skubal. He’s getting the opportunity he wanted and has been taking advantage of those left-on-left changes lately.

3. After the grind of close games, the Cubs’ early lead helped lessen some pressure.

The Cubs have become accustomed to the grind and battle of one-run games.

Heading into Friday’s series opener in Detroit, the Cubs’ last seven games and nine of their last 10 have been decided by one run, going 5-4 in that stretch. The last time the Cubs played seven-straight one-run games was August 23-30, 1996, as part of eight-consecutive one-run games.

While the Cubs ultimately held on for a two-run victory, extending their lead to 4-0 in the fifth on Anthony Rizzo’s double and Javier Báez’s single was welcomed.

“Just a nice clean game,” Ross said. “It was nice, it felt a little more out of reach than it probably was.”

The cushion allowed Arrieta to be more aggressive in the zone, and the offense wasn’t pressed to continuously try to come up with the clutch hit. One-run games are good tests for how a pitching staff handles keeping the game close and challenges the offense, whether it means trying to rally late or looking to tack on runs. Pulling out a more comfortable win sets up the Cubs to start a winning streak Saturday.


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