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Emma: With 20 Wins, Jake Arrieta Earns A Milestone To Remember

By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Those eyes shoot daggers from the mound, and that burly beard conceals a scowl. Jake Arrieta appears as intense as they come when at work. He's an intimidating figure to face.

But that imposing appearance is really masking quiet confidence. Asthe Cubs' ace, Arrieta's extraordinarily calm on the mound, because he can be. He's put in the work during those four days leading up to each start -- workouts, scouting reports, video studies and more. He believes he's just plain better than the opposition.

Arrieta has been dominant all season long. He has a 1.88 ERA, plus a 0.83 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break, a pace that would set a major league record. It seems almost all of his statistics and metrics rank near the best in baseball, and that includes a milestone accomplished on Tuesday night: 20 wins.

"At the end of the day, my body of work has been good," Arrieta said after reaching the milestone with a complete-game shutout in Chicago's 4-0 win over Milwaukee. "It's been what my team has needed."

While the "win" statistic is largely useless when compared to more telling, detailed metrics, earning 20 victories in a season is hard to argue against. It's a show of consistency, a notch on the belt of success. Nobody has accidentally won 20 games in the modern era of baseball.

The remarkable rise of Arrieta is a story of its own. What he's accomplished this season has been nothing short of spectacular. What his August no-hitter in Los Angeles spoke to his dominance, the 20 victories speak to his consistency.

"What can you say, it's 20 wins," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "For him personally, that's an outstanding achievement. Organizationally, it's an outstanding achievement. His status in the game, all that stuff, it's impacted by that one extra win. It's just the way this thing works. I'm happy and proud of him, happy for his family, and for us."

In the home dugout during the eighth inning Tuesday night, Maddon didn't need to say anything to Arrieta. He was returning to the mound to finish what he started, despite a pitch count that would reach 123. Maddon wanted the night to feel special.

Cubs players mobbed Arrieta on the field after the game, dousing him with water in an on-field celebration. It almost seemed like a playoff-clinching celebration, which could occur very soon with the Cubs' magic number reaching three.

Kris Bryant's historic night of his own -- breaking the Cubs' rookie record for homers in a season -- was overshadowed by Arrieta.

"You always have to out-do me," Bryant jokingly told Arrieta.

The raucous Wrigley crowd was on its feet for the ending, keeping seats unoccupied from the moment Arrieta walked to the mound in the ninth inning.

Caught in the moment with teammates, Arrieta couldn't help but smile. He's come a long way since struggling in Baltimore. On a special night like Tuesday, it's laughable to think the Cubs in 2013 got Arrieta (and reliever Pedro Stop) for journeyman starter Scott Feldman and backup catcher Steve Clevenger.

At 29, Arrieta's astounding success appears to be just beginning. His rise to stardom seems like an overnight turnaround, but he says it's a culmination of hard work and belief.

"I know this," Maddon said. "Twenty years from now when he comes back for the reunion of the 2015 team, and he stands out on that line as a 20-game winner, it means something."

Overcome by an accomplishment, Arrieta couldn't help but to appreciate what he achieved. That scowl turned into a smile as he celebrated a considerable milestone to his pure, consistent dominance.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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