Arrieta’s Subpar Start Puts Madison Bumgarner’s 2014 Run In Perspective


Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Jake Arrieta was supposed to be this year’s Madison Bumgarner in the postseason. Bumgarner’s October run in 2014 was eye-popping, as he thoroughly dominated while leading the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series title in five seasons. Entering this year’s October spotlight, Arrieta seemed poised to make a similar run of extraordinary pitching excellence with Bumgarner out of the way.

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In the second half this year, Arrieta allowed 12 runs in 15 starts, striking out 113 batters in 107.1 innings pitched. Opponents hit just .148 in that span against the 28-year-old, right-handed ace, while Arrieta himself batted .195. He no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, and shut out his opponents in nine of his 15 starts.

His supremacy carried over into the wildcard round against the Pittsburgh Pirates, sending them home unhappy with a one-game exit from the postseason for the second straight year. In nine innings of shutout ball, he struck out 11 while allowing seven baserunners (five hits and two walks), leading the Cubs to a 4-0 win and into the NLDS to face their nemeses, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Arrieta’s first start was quite reminiscent of Bumgarner’s opening act from his historic 2014 run. Bumgarner also went the distance while banning the Pirates from the scoreboard. The Giants’ left-hander struck out 10 Pirates’ hitters and permitted just five batters (four hits, one walk) to reach base in the process.

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Bumgarner’s second start was his worst, as he allowed three runs (two earned) over seven innings to the Washington Nationals. Bumgarner earned the loss, as his offense backed him up with only a single run. He would bounce back in resounding fashion, as over the next five games (four starts), he pitched 36.2 innings, allowing four runs and 24 baserunners (18 hits, four walks, and two hit-by-pitches). He picked up three wins, two of which came in the World Series, as well as the five-inning save in game seven of the World Series when he allowed just two hits, and stranded the game-tying run at third base in the ninth inning. His game seven heroics came on just two days’ rest.

The box score from Arrieta’s second start of the postseason also wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing. Arrieta looked more vulnerable than he has in months, as he allowed five hits, two walks, and four runs, including a two-run home run in 5.2 innings. His offense backed him up, as the Cubs slugged a postseason-record six home runs to score eight runs, allowing Arrieta to walk away as the victor.

Arrieta’s subpar start in game two puts a little extra perspective on how ridiculously difficult it was to accomplishment what Bumgarner did last season. In seven appearances in the 2014 postseason, Bumgarner went less than seven innings once, in his five-inning appearance coming out of the bullpen. He gave up three earned runs once, and shut out his opponents four times.

To be able to have your best stuff, or have the absolute grit to grind through a start even if you don’t, is a great feat. It takes a different level of pitcher to shine his brightest when the October lights are also shining their brightest.

Arrieta enjoyed an historic second half to this season, just as Bumgarner enjoyed an historic postseason last season. Arrieta can still bounce back, and he probably will (if he gets another chance, something that isn’t guaranteed), but whether or not he can carry the Cubs to their first World Series championship in 107 years, like Bumgarner carried the Giants last year, remains to be seen.

Arrieta had been downright unhittable for the better part of three months, but on Monday, he looked mortal again. October is where legends are made. As it stands so far, Bumgarner’s legend will remain on its own, for now.

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