- Jared Wickerham/Stringer
The Chicago Cubs may have given up seven stolen bases in a 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, but their catcher doesn’t want to take the blame.
Veteran backstop Miguel Montero thinks that battery mate Jake Arrieta’s slow delivery was responsible for Washington’s dominance on the base paths.
“It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me,” Montero said after the Tuesday night showdown, according to The Athletic. “And when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. So, it’s just like, ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough because it doesn’t matter how much work I put on footwork and throwing and everything, because if I don’t get a chance to throw – that’s the reason they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that.”
Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last four years, but holding runners has never been his strong suit. In 2016, he ranked 114th out of 121 qualified starters in Take Off Rate Above Average, a Baseball Prospectus statistic that “basically tells us how comfortable a base runner is against the pitcher and how likely he is to ‘take off’ on said pitcher.”
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon corroborated Montero’s criticisms.
“It’s about the time to the plate more than anything,” Maddon said. “[Arrieta] is a little slow, gathers late, his leg comes up high. It’s something that he works on. There are times he’s quicker or better with it.”
The Nationals took full advantage of Arrieta’s sluggish pace, tying their team record for stolen bases in a single game. Leadoff hitter Trea Turner took just three innings to tie his own team record of four steals in a game, while center fielder Michael Taylor added two and third baseman Anthony Rendon chipped in one. Washington moved to 46-31 on the season, good for an 8.5 game lead in the National League East.
The Cubs, meanwhile, sit at 39-38, well off of last year’s World Series-winning pace. They lead the National League in stolen bases allowed.