CHICAGO (AP) – One after another, the starting pitchers for the Chicago Cubs are delivering every night.
It was Jake Arrieta’s turn on Wednesday.
Arrieta pitched two-hit ball into the seventh inning, and the Cubs beat the Chicago White Sox 8-3 to move into first in the NL Central.
After a disappointing start to the season, the Cubs (53-47) are roaring again. The reigning World Series champions moved a season-high six games over .500 and a half-game ahead of Milwaukee after trailing the Brewers by 5 1/2 games just two weeks ago.
“We expect to remain in first place throughout the remainder of the way,” Arrieta said. “We know it’s going to be a tough task, but that’s kind of what you deal with at the highest level of sports.”
If their starting pitchers continue their recent roll, they should be in great shape at the end of the season. The rotation of Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks is 9-0 with a 2.50 ERA in the last 12 games.
“I just want to be able to have all my pitches available regardless of the situation,” Arrieta said, “and that’s kind of how tonight worked out.”
Anthony Rizzo had three hits and four RBIs, helping the Cubs improve to 10-2 since the All-Star break. Jon Jay drove in a run and robbed Melky Cabrera of a hit with an outstanding diving catch in left-center.
After finishing their series against the last-place White Sox on Thursday night, the Cubs visit Milwaukee for a three-game set this weekend.
Top prospect Yoan Moncada hit his first career homer and Alen Hanson also went deep, but the White Sox lost for the 11th time in 12 games. Moncada came over from Boston in the Chris Sale trade.
“It means a lot because it’s the first one of many that are coming. I’m happy.” Moncada said through a translator.
Third baseman Yolmer Sanchez committed a costly error for the South Siders, and James Shields (2-3) lasted just four-plus innings.
The White Sox (39-59) played without All-Star outfielder Avisail Garcia, who is expected to miss a couple weeks after an MRI revealed a strained ligament in his right thumb. He went 0 for 5 in Tuesday’s 7-2 loss to the Cubs.
“It’s been like this one week and getting worse, worse, worse,” he said. “So that’s why I decided to stop because my swing is not the same and I don’t want to keep playing like this. Try to get this thing better and try to get back on the field soon.”
Arrieta (10-7) departed after Moncada’s solo shot made it 6-2 with two out in the seventh. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner struck out five and walked two while improving to 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five July starts.
“When the fastball is going where he want to, he’s going to be successful,” manager Joe Maddon said, “and then off that’s going to be the confidence, then off that you’re going to see the cutter and the curveball working better because he’s just going to be a more confident pitcher.”
Kyle Schwarber singled in Rizzo in the fourth, and the Cubs broke it open with four runs in the fifth at Guaranteed Rate Field.
With no outs and runners on first and second, Sanchez misplayed Kris Bryant’s grounder for an error that loaded the bases. Rizzo followed with a drive to the base of the wall in center, making it 4-0 with a three-run double.
The White Sox traded reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league outfielder Ryan Cordell. The 25-year-old Cordell, an 11th-round draft pick by Texas in 2013, hit .284 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 68 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs this year.
Cubs: LHP Brett Anderson (lower back strain) was activated from the 60-day disabled list and designated for assignment. He went 2-2 with an 8.18 ERA in six starts with the Cubs.
White Sox: RHP Jake Petricka was activated from the 10-day DL after being sidelined by a right elbow strain. He also spent time on the disabled list this season with a right lat strain. “Ideally this is the last time we have to go through this,” he said. “It just feels good to be back with the guys.”
Cubs left-hander Jon Lester and White Sox right-hander Mike Pelfrey face off in the series finale. Lester (7-6, 3.95 ERA) is trying for his third straight win since he recorded only two outs in the shortest start of his career July 9 against Pittsburgh. Pelfrey (3-7, 4.46 ERA) is looking for his first victory since he pitched six effective innings in a 5-2 win against Toronto on June 17.
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