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Cubs' Arrieta looks to stay in groove against Pirates

CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta may be finding the form that resulted in 40 victories and a Cy Young Award between 2015-16.

The Chicago Cubs right-hander seeks his fifth win in seven recent stars in Saturday's middle game of a three-game set with Pittsburgh. He'll go against Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova (8-6, 3.24 ERA).

Arrieta, now 8-6 with a 4.33 ERA, is coming off his best start of the season. He pitched seven innings and allowed just one hit and no runs against the Cincinnati Reds last Sunday in a 6-2 Cubs victory.

"Jake was outstanding," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said afterward. "That was as good as I've seen Jake in a bit."

A more dependable changeup appears to be making a difference.

"My progress with the changeup is coming along real nice," Arrieta said after the victory. "I'm getting more comfortable with it. It's just allowing me to open up some more doors and be able to do some different things to right-handers as well as lefties. It's a big pitch for me."

Arrieta allowed his fewest hits against Cincinnati since an April 21, 2016, no-hitter.

He's 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this season and 0-3 in his last five with a 7.81 ERA. Before that recent run of bad fortune, Arrieta was 9-1 with a 1.46 ERA in his first 12 outings against the Pirates.

Arrieta has been more successful at home than on the road this year. He's 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in five Wrigley Field starts as opposed to 5-6 with a 4.52 ERA in 11 road starts.

Nova is 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two career starts against Chicago. He allowed two home runs but beat Arrieta in a head-to-head 4-3 decision on June 17 at PNC Park.

"There was a lot of emotion going into that game," Nova said. "I feel like it was one of the best games I've played here in Pittsburgh. Right from the first inning, the fans were into the game. It was special to pitch in front of a crowd like that."

Nova will make his 18th start and has won seven of his last 11 decisions. He fell to Philadelphia in last Monday's start at Citizens Bank Park, allowing four runs in six innings.

Nova's eight wins as the All-Star break nears are his most since going 10-3 in 17 starts in 2012 with the New York Yankees.

The Cubs climbed back to .500 for the 20th time this season with Friday's 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh and will go into the All-Star break with a decided advantage over division opponents.

Chicago is 22-15 against Central opponents with two games to play with Pittsburgh before the break.

The Pirates and Cubs are tied 5-5 in the season series as Friday's game marked Pittsburgh's first trip back to Chicago since a three-game sweep on April 14-16.

The Cubs are 5-2 against the Pirates since that series, including wins in the last two meetings. The teams will meet again on Aug. 28-30 at Wrigley Field and Sept. 4-7 at PNC Park.

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