Much like the Houston Astros' victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game, the National League Wild Card game was decided by one pitcher providing a dominating performance. Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta struck out 11 in a four-hit shut out win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at PNC Park, 4-0.
Joe Maddon's squad scored runs behind Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler's home runs as the Cubs advanced to the NL Division Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-five series on Friday. It was the first postseason win for the Cubs since 2003.
Arrieta, who performed even better than Dallas Keuchel's six-inning shut-out effort on Tuesday night, was excellent from start to finish, and even kept pitching after a seventh-inning beaning in the left hip by Pirates reliever Tony Watson. After Arrieta and Watson exchanged words, the bullpens and benches charged the field. Pirates utility man Sean Rodriguez was ejected.
But while cooler heads would prevail, there didn't seem to be anything stopping Arrieta. The Cy Young candidate was tested in the sixth inning when Pittsburgh had the bases loaded. But Arrieta was able to force outfielder Starling Marte to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Arrieta threw 113 pitches, 77 of them for strikes. The 29-year-old didn't allow a walk in the game.
While Arrieta thrived, Pirates ace Gerrit Cole failed to adequately contain the Cubs bats. The 25-year-old allowed four earned runs on six hits over five innings.
Three of the hits were courtesy of Fowler. His fifth-inning solo shot followed three runs batted in from Schwarber.
"Jake told me when we talked last night, he said, 'You give me a few runs, I'm good,'" Fowler said. "And I said, 'All right, bro, we'll see what we can do.'"
With another early exit in the postseason, Pittsburgh has yet to win a playoff series since 1979.
"Two years in a row we've drawn a tough bull," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.