PITTSBURGH — Right now, Pirates fans are thinking up a chant for when Jake Arrieta is on the mound in Wednesday’s Wild Card game at PNC Park. That’s a tough assignment, as “Arrieta” has four syllables, and the “Cue-to” style chant from a few years ago won’t work.
Then again, will anything work? Based on his comments in today’s media session, Arrieta doesn’t make it seem like anything will impact him.
“I expect it to be extremely, extremely loud from the get-go,” Arrieta said. “I know the type of loyalty the fans have here. I know how passionate they are about their baseball here, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. I think the noise is something that you just have to deal with. It’s always there in a certain aspect. Obviously tomorrow night is going to be magnified more than most games, but it is expected. It is something that I am comfortable dealing with, and it’s exciting. To be in an atmosphere where you’ve got 40,000, 38,000 plus opposing fans, some Chicago fans are going to be there, obviously, but it makes those moments enjoyable for me.”
Leading up to the game, Arrieta has already become a villain of sorts with his comments on Twitter.
— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) October 4, 2015
Arrieta was asked about that first thing today, and said that it was all in good fun, and part of the interaction between fans and players.
“It’s kind of the build-up to the game,” Arrieta said. “You’ve got two very passionate fan bases in Pittsburgh, and there is the support of the guys they have here. And obviously, on our side with the fan base, we have fans who are extremely supportive of what we’re trying to accomplish. It is all in good fun. There is nothing meant in a negative aspect there. I think it’s just kind of a unique way to start interaction within the fan bases or with the players and the fans. So it’s something I kind of like to do.”
It makes sense for Arrieta to be confident heading into this game. He had the best second half of any pitcher in history, and has dominated the Pirates with an 0.75 ERA in 36 innings this year over five starts. He noted that he’s comfortable “analyzing, scouting, and pitching against” the Pirates.
“It’s an extremely balanced group of guys in that order who can make a lot of things happen,” Arrieta said. “And I feel confident that I can neutralize a lot of their power, a lot of their speed guys with different sequences. You know, I intend to have some pretty good success tomorrow.”
Sequencing will be a big factor, according to Arrieta. That’s especially the case with a team that he has played twice already in the last three weeks. He noted that might not be an advantage if he can execute his pitches.
“For me, at the end of the day, I feel like if I execute, regardless if I were to use same sequencing as I have in the past against these guys, I still feel confident in my ability to have success,” Arrieta said. “It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest amount of mistakes both on the mound, in the field, on the bases. Because we obviously know that two of the best three teams in baseball are playing for a do-or-die game tomorrow. So it’s going to come down to executing, both on the mound and in the field and on the basepaths.”
Clint Hurdle said today that seeing Arrieta so much adds to their volume of information on the player, but that they just need to find a way to adjust to him versus what they were doing the last few outings.
“What we need to do is find a different way for us to get some things done,” Hurdle said. “We’re well aware of what he’s done, how he’s performed, the pitch sequences, the stuff, how it plays out. He’s been a very competitive pitcher and one of the elite pitchers in the league. So I think more than anything, it reinforces our game plan. We’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
Anything can happen in the Wild Card game, and actions speak louder than words. It’s easy to say that 40,000 fans wearing black and chanting in one of the loudest atmospheres won’t impact you. But actually pitching well and not letting that impact you? That’s much more difficult. Arrieta said that he’s been preparing to pitch in this type of game for a long time, and that he’ll be able to channel the home energy and use it to his advantage. We’ll see how much of that is true tomorrow night.