For one night, at least, Jake Arrieta was back in the present tense.
Throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs, half of the talk seemed to center on Arrieta's past -- remember how great he was in 2015?
The other half focused on Arrieta's future -- who's he going to pitch for next year when he leaves the Chicago Cubs as a free agent?
Desperately needed in the now Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, Arrieta showed up in a big way.
Facing elimination in the National League championship series after losing the first three games to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arrieta and the Cubs emerged with a 3-2 win and lived to fight another day.
Arrieta pitched 6⅔ innings and allowed 1 run on 3 hits and 5 walks. He overcame the command issues with 9 strikeouts while throwing 111 pitches.
"Jake's performance was unreal," left fielder Kyle Schwarber said. "That guy was stellar, just the way he composed himself out there. He just went out there and threw the rock, and it was exactly what we needed."
Getting as deep into the game as possible was key for Arrieta, who lasted just 4 innings in his start against the Nationals in Game 4 of the NL division series.
He accomplished that goal.
"You knew a guy like that, he's going to go out there and compete," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "In an elimination game, he's going to leave it all out there, and that's exactly what he did. Got him to (111) pitches and he left it all out there. Kept us off balance. Made pitches when he needed to. The sinker was moving. He had curveball working today, throwing it for a strike and then down below the zone when he needed to.
"We had some good at-bats against them, but really couldn't break through. It's just a credit to him."
When he came out of the game with two outs in the seventh inning, Arrieta was greeted by a standing ovation. He waved his cap at Cubs fans in an emotional acknowledgment.
"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye," Arrieta said. "It's a thank you, obviously."
If it was Arrieta's final start in a Cubs uniform, it was another outing to throw on a pile of fond memories.
"Watching him in (20)15, that was pretty special," manager Joe Maddon said of the year Arrieta won the Cy Young Award. "I've never witnessed on the field that kind of consistent performance from a pitcher. It was otherworldly, right down to the wild-card game. He eventually ran out of steam at the end, but my God, you pretty much knew if you scored 1 or 2 runs, you were going to win that night somehow.
"Since then, he's been really good. He hasn't been as great at that particular time, but we'll see. I don't know how this is going to look moving forward, but I know one thing, man, that one year of watching him play was different. It was a throwback, back to the (19)60s kind of pitching for me, personally. It was pretty special, and he's special. His work ethic and who he is and how he goes about his business, he's a very special young man."
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