Flushing, NY—The third game of the four game series between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon was a true pitching duel between starting pitchers Jose Arrieta of the Cubs and Rafael Montero of the Mets.
Both right-handers pitched effectively deep into the game. They exited from the contest in the eighth inning. Arrieta was replaced by pinch hitter Justin Ruggiano in the top of the eighth.
The 28 year-old left the contest with the Cubs ahead, 1-0. Blanking the Mets, Arrieta recorded the 11th start of his 19 in which he yielded less than two earned runs. He gave up two singles and walked two batters in his seven innings on the mound. His ERA dropped to 2.61, 6th in the National League.
Rick Renteria, the first year manager of the Cubs, was quite impressed by the performance of his starter, who was obtained in a trade with the Orioles last summer, “His breaking ball had a lot of life, good snap. His fastball was setting it up.”
The skipper also commented on Arrieta’s development in his fifth big league season, “His command has really come into its own. He’s learned from his years in the big leagues.”
Arrieta, who did not feel very comfortable in his bullpen session, did not let that affect his outing “Things kind of lock-in once you take the mound.” He agreed with Renteria that his curve and fastball were effective during the game, “It [curve] was there when I needed it today. Those two [curve and fastball] combined. I didn’t have to use the cutter as much.”
Although he pitched outstandingly, Arrieta was not involved in the decision as reliever Pedro Strop, who came to the Cubs in the same trade as Arrieta, gave up one run in the eighth, which tied the game at one.
Met rookie Rafael Montero made the best of his six starts in the majors, going his deepest in a game, 7.1 innings, while only yielding one run and five hits. The Dominican Republic native, despite his effectiveness, also was not involved in the decision as he left the game with the score tied.
Another Dominican native, Starlin Castro, was the game’s hero. After his career high hitting streak of 14 games ended on the previous night, Castro resumed his strong batting on Sunday. He singled to lead-off the second frame, and in the ninth took a first pitch of Jenrry Mejia and parked into the seats in right. Castro’s 13th home run of 2014 proved to be the winning run. Already a three time All-Star in his fifth big league season, Castro is a star on the rise.
Castro modestly minimized the accomplishment, “I just tried to go out there aggressive to hit the ball hard.” To Renteria and Arrieta it was more. The Chicago manager stated, “That was big at bat for him and for us.” The Cubs starter said, “It was a big swing of the bat.”
Venezuelan Hector Rondon earned his 18th save with a perfect ninth inning.
For one young Cub, Matt Szczur of Cape May, New Jersey, the game will always be memorable. The New Jersean is the 11th rookie to play for the Cubs this year and seventh to make his major league debut. He made his debut in the eighth as a pinch runner for Ryan Sweeney and remained in the game in right field.
The 25 year-old spoke highly of his minor league teammates in the organization, and of how well he expects them to do in the majors, “It’s a good litter to choose from.” Never having been a power hitter, Szczur explained what he considers his role to be, “Get on base and let the big boys knock me in.”
The Mets are 14th in the National League in batting average. Sunday was the fourth straight game in which the team was held to no more than four hits.
The final game of the series at noon on Monday will feature an interesting set of starters, highly touted Chicago rookie Kyle Hendricks and 20 year major league veteran Bartolo Colon.