Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo

Cubs send Pirates packing after NL wild card win

These Chicago Cubs are supposed to be too young to be here. Or maybe they’re just too good to care. Jake Arrieta allowed four hits in nine dominant innings and the Cubs rolled to a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL wild-card game on Wednesday night.

PITTSBURGH — These Chicago Cubs are supposed to be too young to be here. Or maybe they’re just too good to care.

Jake Arrieta allowed four hits in nine dominant innings and the Cubs rolled to a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL wild-card game on Wednesday night.

Arrieta struck out 11 without a walk. He also dusted himself off getting plunked by Pittsburgh reliever Tony Watson to send the Cubs to the NL Division Series in St. Louis starting on Friday.

“I’m exhausted. I haven’t felt this way all year,” said Arrieta, who led the majors with 22 wins. “This atmosphere, the energy was unbelievable. Tried to use it to the best of my ability. They were loud, they were really loud.”

Dexter Fowler homered and scored three times for the Cubs. Kyle Schwarber added a towering two-run shot off Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole as Chicago raced to an early lead and let Arrieta do the rest.

The largest crowd ever at PNC Park failed to rattle Arrieta or one of baseball’s youngest teams. First-year manager Joe Maddon’s club played with swagger and confidence and looked right at home while snapping a nine-game playoff losing streak that dated to the 2003 NL Championship Series.

“It’s tremendous for the city. It’s been a while,” Arrieta said. “Chicago’s been waiting for this, but it’s only step one.”

Pittsburgh was knocked out after finishing second in the majors with 98 victories this year. Last season, the Pirates also were shut out on four hits at home in the wild-card game, losing to San Francisco.

“Well, sports is hard. Life’s not fair. You go out and play. You get beat, you move on,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

The bearded, 29-year-old Arrieta, still unbeaten since July 25, stretched his remarkable second half — in which he posted an 0.75 ERA — into the opening round of the playoffs. He threw the first complete-game shutout for the Cubs in the post-season since Claude Passeau tossed a one-hitter in the 1945 World Series against Detroit.

Arrieta even laughed off a weird sequence in the seventh when Watson’s fastball hit him in his left side. The benches and bullpens cleared when Watson was issued a warning, leading to little more than a few heated exchanges along the first base line.

“I hit two guys, unintentionally. I’m not trying to hurt or hit anybody,” Arrieta said. “Balls were slick tonight. I just lost it a couple of times, it kind of ran away from me. I expected that. They’re going to take care of their own guys. It’s understandable. Everything after that was fine,” he said.

Pirates utility player Sean Rodriguez, who’d already been pulled, was ejected and proceeded to give an unsuspecting water cooler a series of one-two combinations, eventually sending it tumbling to the ground.

Pittsburgh had no such luck against Arrieta, with Hurdle seemingly flummoxed on how to get to attack a right-hander who has matured from raw project into overpowering force.

Hurdle shelved slugger Pedro Alvarez — whose 27 homers led the team but whose 23 errors made him a defensive liability — in favour of more sure-handed Rodriguez. Hurdle pointed to the athleticism Rodriguez brought as a major factor, figuring the Pirates would need to get creative to score against Arrieta rather than hope Alvarez runs into the kind of mistake Arrieta has avoided nearly all season.

Maddon took a decidedly different approach, starting Kris Bryant in left and Schwarber in right and Tommy La Stella at third — positions each had played only sparingly during the regular season — because it was the lineup that presented the most firepower.

Did it ever. Chicago took a 1-0 lead two batters into the game when Fowler led off with a single, stole second and scored on a single to left by Schwarber.

The two hooked up again in the third. Fowler singled with one out and Schwarber turned an 88 mph slider from Cole into a massive two-run shot that appeared destined for the downtown Pittsburgh skyline before disappearing over the stands in right field.

Just Posted

Cruel and sadistic: Central Alberta dog rescuers believe there are dog fighting rings in province

With the increased number of stolen dogs, some central Alberta rescuers are… Continue reading

UPDATED: “I want to be your premier again”: Rachel Notley

Premier Rachel Notley makes announcement on Tuesday morning

Mixed Nuts revue presented Saturday to kick off first Carole Forhan Theatrical Scholarship

Broadway songs, comedy skits are part of the Red Deer Players production

Skunks smells are in the air in Red Deer

Medicine River Wildlife Centre receiving calls

Camper found in good health at Pinto Lake

Rocky Mountain House Search and Rescue respond

WATCH: Celebrating francophone Canadians at the 10th annual Red Deer Winter Carnival

The event was hosted by the Red Deer region of the French-Canadian Association of Alberta Saturday

Photos: Three moose spotted in Red Deer Tuesday

Three moose were spotted in Red Deer Tuesday morning. Red Deer resident… Continue reading

Andreescu rockets to No. 24 in WTA Tour rankings after Indian Wells title

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu has rocketed to No. 24 in the WTA Tour… Continue reading

Canadian figure skaters looking to reach new heights at world championships

Nam Nguyen, Alaine Chartrand and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro all have… Continue reading

Man linked to largest art heist in history freed from prison

HARTFORD, Conn. — A reputed Connecticut mobster who federal authorities believe is… Continue reading

Florida Georgia Line, Glorious Sons headline concert series at Canadian Open

HAMILTON — Florida Georgia Line and the Glorious Sons will headline a… Continue reading

Family: Time to shed winter clothes and inhibitions

It has been a long, crazy cold winter. But, if the thermometer… Continue reading

Chelsea Carey rink registers two wins at world women’s curling event

SILKEBORG, Denmark — Canada’s Chelsea Carey rebounded nicely Sunday at the world… Continue reading

Canadian Bianca Andreescu has her first WTA title, winning BNP Paribas Open

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Canadian Bianca Andreescu has her first WTA title.… Continue reading

Most Read