Cubs' Arrieta developing into reliable starter

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sometimes it feels like Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is simply a year or two behind teammate Jeff Samardzija in the maturation process to becoming a successful big league pitcher. Both have great stuff, but right now it’s Samardzija throwing consistently good outings, though Arrieta is inching closer to a pitcher you can trust from start to start.

“I feel like those were the four softest runs you’ll see,” Arrieta declared after losing 4-0 to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night. “Maybe the hardest hit ball may have been an out.”

He’s not wrong. The Giants “nickel-and-dimed” him, as he put it, getting two runs in the first inning and two runs in the fifth, but the damage didn’t come on hard hit balls. Nor did he walk the world like he’s sometimes capable of doing. The worst you could say was Arrieta wasn’t able to field a couple of grounders that went past him in the opening inning, which led to the winning run crossing the plate.

“[Those] are balls I can field,” Arrieta said. “One of those reaction things, where my glove was in the wrong place to be able to field it. That’s tough ... If we get a double play in the first or find a way to limit it to one run and do the same thing in the fifth it’s a 2-0 game but we still lose.”

Arrieta is in that mode where more often than not it’s one pitch here or there that hurts him when he doesn’t have success. Samardzija used to be like that, but he made himself more efficient. Most important is that Arrieta is coming along. The Cubs have placed a lot of faith in him since acquiring him from Baltimore last season. It’s been slow, but it might be starting to pay off.

“I was pretty happy with it,” Arrieta said. “[Pitching coach] Chris Bosio said I threw the hell out of it. Threw a lot of ground balls. More times than not those balls are going to find our infielders. Tonight they just didn’t.”

Arrieta’s line was pretty good considering the lack of hard hit balls. He lasted six innings and only walked one while giving up seven hits; all but one were singles.

“They were able to nickel-and dime-us,” he repeated. “Right place at the right time.”