Jake Arrieta turns back clock in 2021 Chicago Cubs debut

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Jake Arrieta
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Jake Arrieta /

The Chicago Cubs entered ‘The Twilight Zone’ on Saturday afternoon as Jake Arrieta turned back the clock and won his first game with the Cubbies since the 2017 NLCS. This 2021 MLB season just began but this start was everything that Chicago’s management and fan base could have asked for.

Arrieta threw six innings of one-run baseball en route to a win in Chicago’s 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. His fastball remained consistent in the lower 90’s while successfully painting the corners throughout his 84-pitch outing.

Chicago Cubs: Jake Arrieta rolls back the clock with strong 2021 debut

The 2015 Cy Young Award winner did surrender six hits, however, three of these came in his tricky first inning of work. After the Pirates rallied for a two-out run in the first, Arrieta went on to retire 11 of the next 13 batters he faced.

Looking at the bigger picture, this may not have been the type of outing that Arrieta and his franchise fell in love with back in 2015. The last time Arrieta wore a Cubs uniform, he was one of the game’s premier starters. He dominated NL hitters from 2013-17, winning 67.6 percent of his decisions with a 2.86 ERA. Now, at 35-years-old, both time and expectations have changed.

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Following the 2017 season, Arrieta signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency. It looked like age finally caught up to the right-hander as his ERA and WHIP climbed each season. He went 4-4 with a 5.08 ERA last year.

Chicago reunited with their former ace this season thanks to a need for starting pitching depth behind their current ace, Kyle Hendricks. Additionally, there’s hope that Arrieta can continue to reinvent himself. It’s a process that every former pitcher, no matter how dominant they once were, faces during the later stages of their careers.

With age, comes a dip in velocity and the stuff becomes less dominant. The really great pitchers are the ones who hone this craft. In recent MLB history, think of Jon Lester or CC Sabathia.

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There’s a lot of baseball left in 2021 but Chicago will be thrilled if Arrieta can continue to grind out these quality starts. It doesn’t always have to be pretty or flashy, but the only hope is to keep the Chicago Cubs’ offense in games.