The "firsts" were flying all over the place Saturday at Wrigley Field.
Jake Arrieta came off the disabled list and made his first start of the year. He pitched more than creditably, getting a no-decision in the Cubs' 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Park Ridge resident Brian Schlitter, recently back up from the minor leagues, earned his first major-league victory.
Most important for the team, the Cubs assured themselves of a series victory for the first time since last Sept. 9-11 against the Reds. That snapped a streak of 14 straight series without a victory for the Cubs, who improved this season's record to 11-17 with one more to go against the Cardinals. They're now riding a three-game winning streak.
"We know we're a good team," said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who provided an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer, his sixth of the year and third in three games. "It's just about getting the wins. Today we got the win. The last few days we've been getting wins. It's just about staying with it and keep battling and scoring when we have the opportunity."
This one was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, when Junior Lake crushed a two-out, 2-run homer to deep left-center.
It came just a bit late for Arrieta to get the winning decision, but to the benefit of Schlitter, who retired both men he faced in the top of the sixth. Arrieta worked 5⅓ innings and gave up 4 hits while walking two and striking out seven. Arrieta just finished a minor league rehab stint after battling a shoulder ailment that plagued him from the beginning of spring training.
Did he have butterflies?
"A little bit, going through my pregame routine," he said. "I think a lot of it had to do with pitching back at Wrigley for the first time. It's pretty special pitching here. After I played catch down in the bullpen, it was kind of business as usual."
Arrieta, obtained last July from Baltimore in the trade that sent pitcher Scott Feldman to the Orioles, is now the fifth starter with a wide-open opportunity in front of him.
He said he looks at it "kind of the way I always have, really. I try to approach each outing as aware and competitive as possible, acquire the information, put a game plan together and just go and get the other team out. That's really my on only concern every five days."
Another guy getting his first real taste of something closed it out in the ninth. Hector Rondon gave up singles to the first two hitters he faced but bore down and got a double-play comebacker off the bat of Jon Jay before striking out Mark Ellis. It was Rondon's second save in two days and third of the season, all against the Cardinals.
"I knew after those couple hits that I needed to make like a really good pitch, a groundball, a double play," he said. "I tried to throw a fastball away, don't go in, a perfect fastball for me. That was a big double play for me."