The Chicago Cubs will start right-hander Jake Arrieta in a potential Wild Card game, manager Joe Maddon announced:
#Cubs Maddon says Arrieta lined up to start Wild Card playoff game. Says "But, again, our goal is not to play in the Wild Card game"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 9, 2015
The 29-year-old is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.03 ERA and 0.92 FIP in 191 innings in his 28 starts this season with 197 strikeouts against just 44 walks. Arrieta has been especially good in his 10 starts in the second half of the season, with a 0.91 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 69⅓ innings with 19 walks and 74 strikeouts. That stretch of excellence also included a no-hitter against the Dodgers on August 30 in which he walked one and struck out 12.
If things remain as they are now, it would set up a marquee matchup in the NL Wild Card game between Arrieta and Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who has strong numbers of his own this season with a 2.54 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 28 starts for Pittsburgh.
Veteran lefty Jon Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs prior to the season, and who many would have expected to start a potential Wild Card game prior to Arrieta's emergence, endorsed Maddon's choice of starter for the one-game playoff, according to ESPN's Buster Olney:
The Cubs may have a plan for the Wild Card game, but their ultimate goal is still not to play in it, as they will look to close the seven-game gap on the division-leading Cardinals in the final 24 games of the regular season.
Jon Lester says Jake Arrieta should start the wildcard game. http://t.co/jbc09Ha0Gv— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 10, 2015