Offense picks up Arrieta on rare off night

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (49) watches from the dugout after leaving the game during the seventh inning of Game 3 in baseball's National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (49) watches from the dugout after leaving the game during the seventh inning of Game 3 in baseball's National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 10/12/2015 10:10 PM

Over his last 21 starts, it was one masterpiece after another for Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series Tuesday at Wrigley Field, it was more like a sloppy paint-by-numbers effort from the right-handed ace.

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"It's not going to be oil painting every night," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You cannot be perfect every night."

True, but Arrieta was about as close to perfect as you can get before lasting just 5⅔ innings against the Cardinals and allowing 4 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks.

Prior to that, Arrieta was 11-0 with a 0.41 ERA in 12 starts from Aug. 4 through the end of the regular season before pitching a complete game shutout at Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game.

With the wind howling out at Wrigley in Game 3, it is no surprise the Cubs won by an 8-6 final.

"It was pretty obvious the wind was going to be a factor today," Arrieta said. "That's a really, really incredible offensive club on their side. They had a really good approach today. They laid off some really nice cutters, sliders early in counts and made me come in the zone with more hittable pitches.

"They were able to capitalize on two walks there in the third (inning) and scratch for a couple. But the guys picked me up."

Arrieta breezed through the first and third innings, but he looked pretty average in the second, fourth and sixth innings. He was lifted after hitting Brandon Moss with 2 outs in the sixth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He just wasn't the same," Maddon said. "He wasn't as sharp as he normally is. This guy's been on such an incredible roll, it just had to come to an end. But he kept them in check and permitted our bullpen to come in with the lead, which is important."

Arrieta exited with the Cubs holding a 5-4 lead.

"Even with my struggles tonight, they (offense) continued to add cushion for me and the rest of the guys in the bullpen," Arrieta said. "That was really huge against a postseason-proven team. This team we're playing, they're the best of the best. They've proven that and they deserve to be called that. We know we can play with these guys and we know we can be really good."

Arrieta has now thrown 243⅔ innings this season.

"Early in the game, I thought he was on his game," catcher Miguel Montero said. "But this guy has thrown a lot of innings already this year, you know? Even though he's in better shape than everybody in the game, he's still human. Hopefully, he gets another start."

• Follow Scot's reports throughout the playoffs @scotgregor.

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