CHICAGO – Jake Arrieta is refusing to take the final weeks of another lost season for the Cubs for granted.
To Arrieta, September represents an opportunity to prove he deserves to stay in the Cubs' starting rotation next year. Outings like Sunday's against the Philadelphia Phillies will go a long way in pleading his case.
Arrieta allowed three hits and one run while pitching into the seventh inning to lead the Cubs in a 7-1 win over the Phillies.
Acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, he has been inconsistent in his four starts since joining the rotation Aug. 16, but Arrieta (2-1) started strong by retiring eight of the first nine Phillies.
"There's going to be times where struggles come into play, but it's about minimizing those struggles," Arrieta said. "That's the point I'm at in my career where I need to be able to get over the hump of compounding difficult starts."
Although walks and lack of command have doomed Arrieta at times, he worked around three walks with only two Phillies advancing beyond second base in his 6 2-3 innings.
"Walks are going to happen but for me if I can do as good of a job as I can establishing strike one, the walks will be down," Arrieta said. "That's the most important thing to establish strike one and get ahead."
Three Cubs relievers combined for 2 1-3 shutout innings. The victory gave the Cubs their first consecutive home wins since a stretch of three straight July 6-9.
"Hopefully we can stay on a roll here and do some damage at home," manager Dale Sveum said.
The Cubs came through against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick (10-12), scoring five runs on eight hits in six innings off the right-hander.
Ryan Sweeney, activated from the 60-day disabled list Sunday, delivered in his first at-bat since breaking a left rib when he crashed into the center field wall June 29 in Seattle. Sweeney's single to center scored Darwin Barney from second to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Kendrick snared Donnie Murphy's liner to strand runners on the corners to end the inning.
"To get that first hit back under the belt was huge," Sweeney said. "We put together some big hits today."
Anthony Rizzo's double off the right field wall — just out of reach of a leaping Darin Ruf — scored Starlin Castro from first extending the Cubs' lead in the third.
Ruf got a run back in the fourth, hitting a solo homer off Arrieta to cut the Phillies' deficit to 2-1. The Phillies have lost 21 of their last 23 games when scoring three runs or less.
"A lot of our guys didn't have too much of a history with him," Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said of Arrieta. "First time through the lineup, he was pretty sharp. That trend continued. Guys had a tough time making adjustments."
The Cubs then broke the game open in the bottom half, starting the inning with three consecutive hits, including back-to-back doubles by Brian Bogusevic and Welington Castillo. Castillo's double to left-center field drove in two runs. Arrieta hit a fly ball to right and Castillo advanced to third.
Kendrick struggled with his command, missing in the strike zone and then hitting Castro with one out to put runners on the corners.
Ruf delivered an on-target throw home on Barney's sacrifice fly to right field, however, Phillies catcher Erik Kratz couldn't hold onto the ball when he went to tag Castillo, giving the Cubs another run and a 5-1 lead.
Pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena, who was activated from the 15-day DL before the game, drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth against Phillies reliever J.C. Ramirez and Castro added a sacrifice fly.
NOTES: With two spots open after the Phillies made two trades Saturday, INF/OF Cesar Hernandez and Michael Martinez were recalled from Triple-A Lehigh before Sunday's game. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said more players could be called up in the coming days with the expanded roster. ... Amaro explained the Michael Young trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers went down pretty quickly after getting a phone call from Dodgers GM Ned Colletti on Friday. He thought the deal might be dead around 11:20 a.m. EDT but it was revived when both teams were able to finally agree on compensation. ... Phillies slugger Ryan Howard (left knee surgery) remains doubtful to return this season, though he continues to make progress, and he might see some game action in the Arizona Fall League, Amaro said. The Cubs activated Sweeney from the 60-day DL and Valbuena from the 15-day DL and recalled RHP Alberto Cabrera from Triple-A Iowa before Sunday's game. To make room for Sweeney on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated RHP Eduardo Sanchez for assignment.