After a dismal 8-20 August, the Cubs were happy to turn the page on the calendar. They have now won back-to-back games at home for the first time since winning three straight from July 6-9, and won their first home series since July 5-7.
There were plenty of No. 23 Cubs jerseys spotted at Wrigley Field this weekend in honor of Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman who called Chicago home for 15 seasons. His family, including five grandchildren, were at the ballpark among Sunday's crowd of 31,859.
The Cubs, though, were focused on evaluating the players on the roster in the final month. Arrieta's on that list, and the right-hander gave up three hits over 6 2/3 innings in his fifth start for Chicago, earning his second win with the club.
"It's a power arm with a power slider," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Arrieta. "He's a big guy, good athlete and can do things on the mound. He's still learning big league hitters and how to get ahead and not step on his own feet out there, as well. The walks are the biggest thing we have to cut down. With that kind of power arm and ability, you have to make them put the ball in play."
It helped that the Phillies didn't know the right-hander very well.
"A lot of our guys didn't have too much of a history with [Arrieta], so the first time through the lineup he was pretty sharp and that trend continued," Sandberg said. "Our guys had a tough time making adjustments. He mixed it up. He had a cut fastball that was breaking about a foot at times, which is abnormal for a cut fastball. He was jamming some left-handed hitters with it and the ball was running away from right-handers."
Arrieta's audition has gone well so far. He's holding opponents to a .178 batting average with 21 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings so far.
"That's my goal is to be a part of this rotation for many years," he said. "I've developed some comfort here, the staff has been great so far, and I look forward to continuing relationships with the staff and players, because that's a huge part of every team, the chemistry and camaraderie in the clubhouse.
"There will be times when struggles come into play, but it's a matter of minimizing the struggles. I have to get over the hump of compounding difficult starts. When I'm able to do that, then I'm in the right spot. Not only will I benefit, but the organization and the team will see the reward, as well."
The Cubs added three players Sunday when Major League rosters could expand, including Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena, who were activated from the disabled list. Sweeney delivered in his first at-bat, hitting an RBI single with two outs in the first off Kyle Kendrick, who needed 31 pitches to get through the inning.
"To get that first at-bat under the belt was huge," Sweeney said.
Starlin Castro was safe on an infield single to open the third and scored one out later on Rizzo's double off the right-field wall.
Darin Ruf made it 2-1 with his 12th home run with one out in the fourth, launching an 0-1 cutter from Arrieta into the basket rimming the bleachers in left-center. Sweeney, who had been sidelined with fractured ribs suffered when he crashed into the outfield wall in Seattle, could only watch.
"I thought I had a bead on it, but I couldn't see it because of the sun," Sweeney said. "At the last second, I could see it, but the basket got it. I couldn't jump up high enough to catch it."
After being injured in a collision, did he hesitate?
"I was standing there and jumped, so I didn't have my momentum running toward [the wall]," he said. "I knew I wouldn't hit it too hard."
That was all the Phillies could muster. Donnie Murphy singled to lead off the Chicago fourth and reached third on Brian Bogusevic's ground-rule double that disappeared in the ivy covering the left-field wall. Castillo drove both in with a double, then advanced on a fly ball by Arrieta and scored one batter later on Darwin Barney's sacrifice fly. Ruf's throw home short-hopped catcher Erik Kratz, who couldn't get his glove on it.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth against J.C. Ramirez, who walked pinch-hitter Valbuena to force in a run and gave up a sacrifice fly to Castro.
The Cubs' bullpen shut down the Phillies, and now have a 2.59 ERA in the last eight games. The extra runs help.
"Rizzo's double with men in scoring position, Sweeney starting with a single to left to get us on board, two sac flies by Barney and Castro there to get add on runs, and you can do certain things [with the relievers] and keep the closer out of the game," Sveum said.
Arrieta was mad at himself because he didn't throw enough first-pitch strikes. Sveum, though, liked what he saw.
"When his command is going, and he's throwing strikes, there's not a whole lot going on [for the other team]," Sveum said. "The only thing that gets him in trouble is when he gets ahead of guys and then I call them 'non-competitive pitches,' where he throws them completely out of the zone. When he's in the zone, and you have that 90 mph slider, cutter and his curveball, he's pretty tough. When he gets command of that cutter, it'll be a pretty powerful pitch in the league."