By Nate Johnson
After being snubbed in National League All-Star consideration, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta capped off the first half of the season in all-star fashion on Sunday.
Tossing a 9-inning, two-hit complete game win and adding a solo home run at the plate, Arrieta matched his career high of ten wins. In doing so, he became the first Cubs starter since 2008 to reach the 10-win mark by the midway point of the season.
The win salvaged the first leg of the Crosstown Cup meetings between the Cubs and the White Sox after the Sox took the first two games, 1-0 and 5-1. Those two losses brought the recent offensive dry spell to 12 out of their last 18 games in which the Cubs were held to two runs or fewer. This slide saw the team held to a lowly .212 average, tempered only by the pitching staff putting up a 2.21 ERA against opposition.
The anemic start to the crosstown series was a big drop after splitting a four-game home series with the Cardinals, including their first doubleheader sweep of the Cards at Wrigley in 12 years. The series was nearly a 3-1 win for the Cubs, lost only with two outs in the ninth of the final game when reliever Pedro Strop gave up a two-run home run to St. Louis shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Despite the offense scuffling and some up and down performances from the bullpen, the team hits the All-Star break with a 47-40 record, still currently good enough for a wild card spot. The record marks an eight-game improvement over the 2014 season and puts the team on pace for 87 wins, a mark that looked out of sight in recent years.
Chicago was represented at the All-Star festivities by the infield corner combination of first baseman Anthony Rizzo and rookie third baseman Kris Bryant, both of whom were not only named to the National League team but also participated in Monday’s Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, it was a short night for both Northsiders lost in the first round, with overall All-Star top vote-getter Josh Donaldson (Toronto) knocking out Rizzo and longtime Cub foe Albert Pujols (Anaheim) edging out Bryant.