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'Snake' continues to charm at crunch time

Cubs' division lead shrinks to 3 despite Arrieta's recent performances
Special to MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- After a disappointing loss, count on a veteran like Jake Arrieta to think of the big picture.

The Cubs right-hander pitched well enough to earn another win Thursday, but his team couldn't hold onto a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning and lost, 4-2, to Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park. Afterward, Arrieta was asked if there is a high cost of such an unexpected defeat for a team in a pennant race.

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CINCINNATI -- After a disappointing loss, count on a veteran like Jake Arrieta to think of the big picture.

The Cubs right-hander pitched well enough to earn another win Thursday, but his team couldn't hold onto a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning and lost, 4-2, to Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park. Afterward, Arrieta was asked if there is a high cost of such an unexpected defeat for a team in a pennant race.

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"It's easy to say yes, but we're the team in first place," Arrieta said. "We won five in a row, then we lost a tough one. We go into [Philadelphia] still feeling pretty good."

The Cubs do indeed enter the Players Weekend series against the Phillies with a three-game lead in the National League Central over idle Milwaukee and a 4 1/2-game lead over St. Louis, which lost to San Diego.

But, as well as Arrieta pitched (again), those leads might well have been bigger.

Arrieta, who'll wear the nickname "Snake" on the back of his jersey during Players Weekend, was charged with an unearned run over 5 2/3 innings, lowering his season ERA to 3.49. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last eight starts dating back to July 8. He was dominant at the start, retiring the first 10 Cincinnati batters before Zack Cozart reached on an error and Joey Votto followed with an RBI single.

Arrietta worked out of trouble in the fifth and left the bases loaded in the sixth, but left-hander Brian Duensing ("Deuce") extinguished that threat by inducing an inning-ending groundout from Jesse Winker.

"I felt like I had good tempo, really good sequences," Arrieta said. "The only trouble I got into, I got out of in the fifth (after the first two batters reached) by making some really good pitches. In the sixth, I tried to do a little too much, tried to overthrow and missed some spots."

Cincinnati's 23-year old Sal Romano was able to match Arrieta, allowing two runs over seven innings to give his team a chance.

"Not a whole lot to talk about offensively, Arrieta was good again," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Both Arrieta and Sal were throwing that kind of off-body to the left-handed hitter that comes back over the inside corner. That's really hard to commit to swing at because it's a ball out of the hand. [Romano] just had it going on, a nice feel for the changeup and breaking ball. When you have those three pitches and throw it around the plate, you have a chance to be successful."

Arrieta was certainly successful, even if he left with the same 13-8 record he entered with. He struck out eight and walked three.

"It just came down to them making one more play," he said.

Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta