CHICAGO — Jake Arrieta may never duplicate the second half he had two years ago in winning the NL Cy Young Award.
The Cubs don’t care.
They’ll take what the right-hander is giving them now.
Arrieta pitched into the seventh inning and allowed a run, Javier Baez homered and drove in three runs, and Chicago beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-4 on Friday in a rare interleague matchup.
Arrieta (13-8) allowed one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings to win his third straight start. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer and gone at least six innings in each of his seven starts since the All-Star break.
"Jake was outstanding," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Right now, maybe not as good as he was a couple of years ago, but he’s pretty darn close."
Despite going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA in 2015, Arrieta, 31, said recently that he believes his best pitching is still to come.
"That’s the way I feel and I intend to back it up," he said.
Ryan Goins had a two-run single and Kevin Pillar added an RBI double to highlight a three-run eighth for the Blue Jays. Miguel Montero, who began the season with the Cubs, went 2 for 4 with a run scored against his former team.
This is Toronto’s second visit to Wrigley Field and first since June 2005.
Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ (6-9) allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings to snap a three-game winning streak.
"It was a battle for him," manager John Gibbons said of Happ. "He had to work in the early innings."
After Toronto went up 1-0 in the first, the Cubs answered with three runs in the second aided by Happ’s mental mistake. With runners on second and third and one out, Heyward hit a grounder wide of first base. Smoak easily fielded it, but Happ didn’t break to cover and Heyward beat him to the bag for a run-scoring single.
Baez followed with a bloop single to make it 2-1. One out later, Almora Jr. singled to score Heyward.
Chicago stretched the advantage to 5-1 in the fifth on Rizzo’s two-run single.
Toronto scored three runs in the eighth off Pedro Strop to trim the Cubs’ lead to one, but Baez’s two-run homer — his 20th — in the bottom of the inning provided insurance.
"It means a lot," Baez said of getting 20 homers. "We to try to get there, to get 30."
LESTER PLACED ON DL
The Cubs got an encouraging report on Jon Lester before placing the ace left-hander on the 10-day disabled list.
Lester was examined by team physician Dr. Stephen Gryzlo after he departed Chicago’s 13-10 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday in the second inning. He was diagnosed with tightness in his left lat and shoulder fatigue, but his shoulder and side were deemed structurally sound.
"I think the big thing is just the overall performance was not there," Lester said. "This is something that we tried to manage and get through. It just got to a point where you’re doing a disservice to your team by going out there and not being able to perform."
Montero was designated for assignment by the Cubs following some comments critical of Arrieta holding on runners in early July.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge," Montero said. "To be honest, I was nervous early in the game. I never felt like (that), not even in my debut in the big leagues."
Perhaps the person least troubled by Montero’s comments was Arrieta.
"I came up for my second at-bat and I asked him if he wanted to go out for a drink tonight, so we might do that," Arrieta said. "He’s one of my favourite guys. It’s a little upsetting to see the way that it ended for him here, but it is what it is."
Blue Jays: Closer Roberto Osuna was sent back to the team hotel because of an illness.
Cubs: In addition to Lester, RHP Justin Grimm was placed on the 10-day DL with an infection in his right index finger.
Cubs lefty Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.86 ERA) faces righty Nick Tepesch (1-1, 5.23) in the middle game of the series. Quintana has a 1.77 ERA in nine starts against Toronto.