Cubs 7, Reds 3: Striving For Perfection

Jonathan Daniel

Jake Arrieta has turned into a revelation in the Cubs' rotation this year.

I've seen this happen numerous times, but it's the first time I've seen it happen to a Cubs pitcher.

What's that? A pitcher throws several no-hit or perfect innings. Then his team has a very long inning at the plate. This can sometimes include, as it did Tuesday evening, the pitcher himself reaching base and spending a long time on the basepaths. When the pitcher returns to the mound -- boom! No-hitter or perfecto gone.

The Cubs won the game over the Reds 7-3, but Jake Arrieta seemed on target for a possibly historic game. He retired the first 18 Reds he faces, before leading off the bottom of the sixth with a walk. The Cubs wound up loading the bases and scoring a pair of runs, and the action at one point included Arrieta having to dive back to third base.

If you think that didn't matter, Arrieta himself said it did:

The Cubs added two runs in the sixth, with Arrieta starting the rally with a walk off Homer Bailey. But after spending a long time on the basepaths, Arrieta didn't return to the mound in a crisp manner.

"I was gassed," Arrieta said.

No matter. Arrieta did wind up giving up a pair of runs in the seventh inning; he got a warm ovation after Billy Hamilton broke up the perfect game with a leadoff single in that frame.

As far as I know, since Milt Pappas lost a perfect game with two out in the ninth September 2, 1972, only two Cubs pitchers had taken perfect games into the seventh inning: Jose Guzman against the Braves on April 6, 1993 (his first start with the Cubs, and he then lost his no-no with two out in the ninth) and Jon Lieber, who retired the first 20 Cardinals he faced September 20, 1999 before Mark McGwire broke it up with a two-out homer in the seventh. That led to a disastrous seven-run inning and a loss.

So we had a bit of building excitement at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, after a small but intense thunderstorm drenched the park around 6 p.m. and caused a 53-minute rain delay. Despite losing his chance at perfection, Arrieta threw yet another really nice game. The linked Tribune article above says scouts from several teams were watching Arrieta. I hope the Cubs don't trade him; he is under team control for three more years and seems to have at last figured out the great talent that the Orioles (and Cubs) always thought he had.

While all this was going on, the Cubs were fashioning a 2-0 lead, partly thanks to yet another home run from Anthony Rizzo, his 17th, tying him for third in the National League with the Reds' Todd Frazier. Rizzo's making himself a pretty good case for an All-Star selection this year. He wound up with three hits, including a double in a three-run eighth inning that put the game away. Neil Ramirez had been warming up for a save chance during that inning, and then had to come into the game in a non-save situation. As often happens in cases like that, he gave up a run, on a home run by Devin Mesoraco that landed about four rows down from me. The Cubs fan who got the ball ran out of the section, likely to avoid the dumb "Throw it back" calls, but moments later I saw him leave surrounded by Cubs security. Why? The Reds and Mesoraco wanted the ball, because he had thus homered in five consecutive games. That tied the Reds' team record for such things. If you're wondering, five is also the Cubs' team record, held by Hack Wilson (July 3-7, 1928), Ryne Sandberg (August 7-11, 1989) and Sammy Sosa(June 3-8, 1998).

This game was so much fun that I won't even complain about Rick Renteria's trudging to the mound three separate times in an eighth inning that seemed to take as long as the entire rest of the game up to that time. I had to laugh at the silly little kabuki the Cubs put on during that inning -- you know, all teams do it these days. Welington Castillo trudged to the mound after James Russell had recorded the second out. All the infielders -- save Darwin Barney, who stood around just a bit apart from the scrum -- also slowly walked toward the mound. You've seen this before -- the plate umpire walked slowly to the mound to "break up" the conference. As soon as umpired Dan Iassogna got back behind the plate... you guessed it, that's when Renteria came out to replace Russell with Brian Schlitter.

Modern baseball, I guess. All of Renteria's moves worked, I suppose, as the Reds failed to score in a game that was close at the time, the Cubs leading 4-2. I wish it didn't have to work that way.

We were also treated to the second major-league appearance of Jumbo Diaz, who is the heaviest player in MLB history, listed at 315 pounds. Diaz, actually, is a great story -- 12 years in the minor leagues and finally getting a shot in the big leagues after being dominant in Triple-A for the Reds the last two years. Diaz also made news a couple of years ago when he stole third base in a Triple-A game. Seriously, watch the video. In case you're wondering, the previous "heaviest player in MLB history" was another pitcher nicknamed "Jumbo" -- 295-pound Jumbo Brown, who pitched for the Yankees, Indians, Giants (and two games for the Cubs) from 1925-41.

Anyway, that one was fun. Jake Arrieta seems to have arrived as a solid major-league starting pitcher. He's 28, and I hope he sticks around in blue pinstripes for a while.

The Cubs go for another series win Wednesday evening, and this one would be pretty rare. The Cubs haven't won a series from the Reds in Wrigley Field in almost three years, since September 5-6-7, 2011. Since then the Reds are 20-5 at Wrigley. I'd say it's about time to end that. On the other hand... it's Edwin Jackson again. He'll face Mat Latos. Remember that Wednesday's game starts an hour earlier than usual, 6:05 CT.

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