Imrem: Young Cubs sluggers come to Arrieta's rescue

  • Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comCubs' pitcher Jake Arrieta leaves the game in the 6th inning in the Cubs vs Cardinal showdown at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

    Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comCubs' pitcher Jake Arrieta leaves the game in the 6th inning in the Cubs vs Cardinal showdown at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 10/12/2015 10:10 PM

Don't worry, old fella, a collection of young Cubs players screamed with their bats Monday night.

Of course old is a relative term. Jake Arrieta is in his pitching prime at 29 years old. But on this team on this night, 29 might as well have been the new ancient.

 

Game 3 of the National League Division Series started out as another opportunity for Arrieta to exhibit his space-alien ability.

Didn't happen and Cubs' manager Joe Maddon said afterward, "He wasn't as sharp as he normally was. I saw that at the beginning."

So someone or something had to cover for Arrieta and it turned out to be the Cubs' young sluggers.

"These guys will make you pay in this park with the wind blowing out," Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny said.

Arrieta was the winning pitcher anyway in the Cubs' 8-6 victory over St. Louis, which gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

This was the first crack in Arrieta's invincibility since July, and it wasn't exactly a gaping crack. But the fear was that being human would cost the Cubs this pivotal game.

Twice the Cardinals scored 2 runs in an inning off Arrieta? Gasp. They scored 4 in fewer than six innings off him? Yikes! Jason Heyward hit a home run off him? Ugh.

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Fans showed up to the first postseason game in Wrigley Field in seven years expecting a shutout from Arrieta, if not a no-hitter or even a perfect game.

That's how high the expectations have soared for the Cubs' pitching ace.

Instead, well, mortality didn't quite pound Arrieta into submission. It was more like it tickled him.

Nevertheless, the crowd of 42,411 gave Arrieta a standing ovation as he walked from the mound to the dugout with a 5-4 lead with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.

Cub fans might have been messaging him, "Grab a beer, take shower, your teammates have your back."

Almost before the cheering for Arrieta ended, Jorge Soler hit a 2-run homer to jack the Cubs' lead to 7-4.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Soler is one of a group of Cubs' kids -- in baseball years they're kids -- that might even have the unflappable Cardinals concerned about the rest of the series and the rest of the decade for that matter.

Six Cubs hit home runs on this night and five were from players ages 22 (Kyle Schwarber), 23 (Soler and Kris Bryant), 25 (Starlin Castro) and 26 (Anthony Rizzo).

Schwarber, Soler and Bryant are rookies. Another rookie, Addison Russell, 23, tripled before leaving with left hamstring tightness.

Javier Baez, 22, replaced Russell and proceeded to record 2 hits in 2 at-bats.

This is sort of ridiculous, having so much young talent and there reportedly is more looming in the Cubs' minor leagues.

Maddon was asked whether it was an advantage to have so many young guys who maybe don't realize what postseason pressure is.

"Only because we're doing well," Maddon said. "Our young guys reacted well the whole season."

The Cubs couldn't have reacted much better on this night, lofting balls up into the 17-mph winds blowing toward Waveland and Sheffield avenues.

"I wasn't thinking that," Bryant said of the six home runs before adding, "(But) every time the wind is blowing out (here) you have to take advantage."

To the Cardinals, it must have felt like an ill wind that blew them to within one defeat of elimination after winning 100 games during the regular season.

To the Cubs' young sluggers, it must have felt like oxygen.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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