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Arrieta excels in possible Cubs swan song

Free agent after season, veteran stifles LA to keep WS hopes alive
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- If Wednesday was Jake Arrieta's last outing for the Cubs, he wanted to savor it.

"I took a little bit of extra time between pitches just to look around, foul pole to foul pole, behind home plate, just to relish it and take it in," Arrieta said after helping the Cubs avoid elimination and beat the Dodgers, 3-2, to extend their season.

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CHICAGO -- If Wednesday was Jake Arrieta's last outing for the Cubs, he wanted to savor it.

"I took a little bit of extra time between pitches just to look around, foul pole to foul pole, behind home plate, just to relish it and take it in," Arrieta said after helping the Cubs avoid elimination and beat the Dodgers, 3-2, to extend their season.

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The sellout crowd of 42,195 at Wrigley Field gave Arrieta a standing ovation when he took the mound. He responded well, holding the Dodgers to one run on three hits -- a Cody Bellinger solo homer -- over 6 2/3 innings. With the win, the Cubs trail the Dodgers, 3-1, in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series presented by Camping World. Game 5 will be Thursday at Wrigley Field.

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"You've got this many fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope," Arrieta said. "It breathes some added energy. I'm thankful they came out and had the energy they did. It really helped us tonight."

Arrieta seems to thrive on these games. This was his third career postseason start with his team facing elimination, and he's 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA, striking out 29 over 21 2/3 innings in those outings.

"It's not an ideal situation, but I've been in this situation before and I enjoy it," Arrieta said. "I like my chances of taking that ball and giving us a chance to win. I'll be ready tomorrow or the next day, I'll be ready to go again."

A free agent after the season is over, Arrieta said he'll do whatever it takes to extend the Cubs' campaign. He was serious about pitching Thursday.

"Jake's performance was unreal, man," Kyle Schwarber said. "That guy was stellar. The way that he puts himself out there and just went out there and threw the rock. It was exactly what we needed, that little bump of energy there."

It helped that the Cubs got a little more offense as Willson Contreras hit a solo home run and Javier Baez added two homers, ending an 0-for-20 skid. Arrieta's outing was significant in that it was the longest by a Cubs starter in the NLCS. The bullpen was needed but not too overworked.

"His sinker was moving so much, and then after that, he was able to make the adjustment that got us through six," Contreras said.

Video: NLCS Gm4: Arrieta exits to a standing ovation in 7th

Manager Joe Maddon was impressed as well.

"More than anything, I'm watching [the Dodgers'] reaction to his pitches and the swings and misses, the ball was moving that much," Maddon said. "He needed to pitch as deeply as he did for us to get that win tonight. Good for him. Stayed with him as long as I thought we could."

"Jake was amazing," Cubs closer Wade Davis said. "He was throwing Wiffle balls, it looked like. Guys were just swinging at balls that started in on the zone and finished a foot off the plate. He's got some amazing stuff altogether."

Video: NLCS Gm4: Arrieta strikes out nine in Game 4 win

Arrieta knows what's at stake.

"We had to start with one [win]," Arrieta said. "We got this one out of the way. [Jose Quintana] will be as prepared as any starter I've seen. He can pitch in any situation. We had to win today and we'll try to do the same tomorrow."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Jake Arrieta