Jake Arrieta is more aware than most when he is on the playing field.
When he takes the mound for the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday in Game 4 of the National League division series at Wrigley Field, look for Arrieta to soak in the atmosphere even more than usual.
"Kind of capture some mental images of Wrigley and the fan base and my teammates," Arrieta said. "Just to try and remember as much as I can about these last couple weeks, if it's my last time in this uniform."
Eligible for free agency at the end of the season, it's almost a foregone conclusion Arrieta will be wearing a different uniform in 2018 due to his expected salary demands and the wear and tear that comes with being a 31-year-old starter pitcher.
Having last pitched on Sept. 26, when he allowed 5 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk in 3 innings at St. Louis, Arrieta said he's had "no issues" with his strained right hamstring.
"Had five or six days where I completely did (nothing) and allowed it to heal," he said. "That really helped out with the recovery, allowing me to get back to 100 percent. I've thrown two really good bullpens with no issues. From this point on, it seems like it's going to be a nonissue for us now."
The better Arrieta pitches, the longer the Cubs' postseason is likely to go. But he has had an incredible run on the North Side since being acquired in a trade from Baltimore on July 2, 2013.
"From where we came from when I got over here in 2013 has been tremendous," said Arrieta, the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2015. "I've met some incredible people. I was welcomed in this organization from the get-go, and you know, I'm very thankful for Jed (Hoyer) and Theo (Epstein) bringing me over here to give me another opportunity to revamp my career."
In the first three games of the NLDS, the Cubs faced three of the top starting pitchers in baseball.
In Game 1, the Nationals sent Stephen Strasburg to the mound. During the regular season, he ranked fifth in the majors with a 2.52 ERA.
In Game 2, Gio Gonzalez started for Washington. He ranked seventh with a 2.96 ERA.
In Game 3, defending Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was on the mound for the Nats. He ranked third in the majors with a 2.51 ERA.
The Cubs have a much more favorable matchup with Tanner Roark in Game 4.
In 32 games (30 starts) this season, the Wilmington, Ill., native was 13-11 with a 4.67 ERA.
"I threw a bullpen yesterday and felt good," Roark said. "Everything felt good. You just can't get overanxious and try to throw a billion. You've got to stay within yourself and know what pitch works for you at that time. When I'm throwing 95 (mph) two-seamers and it's up in the zone, that's not as effective as 92 down in the zone at the knees."