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Aces Arrieta, Cole hold wild-card hopes
By THE SPORTS XCHANGE
Jake Arrieta wasn’t an All-Star, but the Chicago Cubs right-hander swears he was made for this big stage, Wednesday’s National League wild-card game.
Standing in the way of the Cubs’ early arrival to the playoff party and a National League Division Series meeting with the St. Louis Cardinals are the Pittsburgh Pirates and 19-game winner Gerrit Cole.
“I’m obviously confident. Everything is where it needs to be,” Arrieta said following his 22nd win of the season. “Wednesday is the most important thing for everybody here.”
Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) and Cole are Cy Young candidates from the same division with success against Wednesday’s opponent.
Arrieta tossed a one-hitter in his last start against the Pirates Sept. 27. He was 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in five starts against the Pirates this season.
Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in nine career starts against Chicago, including 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA this season.
“This is our guy,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the 25-year-old Cole, who averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2015.
Cole was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 and skipped one start in September to be lined up for this game. He is one of the young home-grown core players drafted by the Pirates who’ve helped the team to a third wild-card game appearance. The do-or-die situation is nothing new to young veterans such as Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 MVP.
That won’t be the case for the heart of the Cubs’ order, but the thumpers in the middle of the Chicago lineup have done just fine against Cole.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo and left fielder Kris Bryant, the leading candidate for National League Rookie of the Year, were a combined 9-for-26 against Cole this season. The Cubs led MLB with 48 road wins.
“It’s a chess match,” Arrieta said. “They’ve seen what I throw. They know what I throw, but the sequences are things that I constantly change and constantly switch up so it’s hard to find any pattern.”
NOTES: The Pirates were tied for third in MLB with 53 wins at home this season. … Division foes since 1969, this is the first playoff game between the Cubs and Pirates. … Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole started 15 games at PNC Park this season and was 9-3 with a 2.83 ERA. … Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo has a .353 career average against Cole. … The Cubs won the 2015 season series 11-8.