Well, now I wish I had taken the trip to Fenway Park to see the Cubs this week.
They've started out the series with a gem -- a two-hit combined shutout, winning 2-0 over the Red Sox, but the story of the game -- as it was in his last start -- was Jake Arrieta.
For the second time in a row, Arrieta took a no-hitter beyond six innings. Last week at Wrigley, it was a perfect game broken up by the Reds' Billy Hamilton leading off the seventh. Monday night, apart from a fifth-inning walk to Mike Napoli, Arrieta had the no-no going with two out in the eighth. He'd thrown 119 pitches, his most this year, and I certainly hope Rick Renteria would have left him in to at least start the ninth if he'd completed eight no-hit innings.
Unfortunately, Stephen Drew broke up the no-hitter with a clean single to right on Arrieta's 120th pitch, a career high. That's the time to go get him, because at 2-0, the game was still potentially winnable for the Red Sox. Arrieta left to a warm ovation from the Fenway Park crowd, many Cubs fans, but also a lot of Red Sox fans giving him applause, because that's what you do for a visiting player whose performance is worth watching.
Let's talk about that pitch count for a moment. Yes, it was the most he'd ever thrown (by six). Still, when a pitcher has a no-hitter going... I believe you let him go as far as he can with it. Some of you might say, "Arm trouble looms!" and granted, Arrieta did miss this year's first month. Nevertheless, he hasn't shown any signs of arm trouble since he returned, the Cubs have brought him along slowly (Monday was just his fourth start out of 11 when he'd even gone over 100 pitches), and I think he'll be just fine.
Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (10th save) finished up without incident, except for Rondon allowing another hit to longtime Cubs nemesis A.J. Pierzynski, who was pinch-hitting. He was immediately erased on a double play.
Meanwhile, the Cubs extended their own no-no-hit streak to 7,744 games, and there was little suspense for the CubsNoHitStreak Twitter account Monday evening as Ryan Sweeney singled with one out in the first inning. The Cubs didn't do much else off another nemesis from the past, Jake Peavy, who had one of his better starts of the year. Peavy gave the Cubs just five hits, but one of them was a ball grooved to Nate Schierholtz, who hit his fourth home run of the year with Welington Castillo, who had walked, on base.
Schierholtz might have only four home runs this year after 21 a year ago, but all of them have come in his last 100 at-bats, so maybe he's breaking out of his season-long slump in a way that could get a contending team interested in him. I doubt he'll be back in 2015; he doesn't really fit in the Cubs' future plans.
I can't say enough good things about Arrieta. It'll still be about three or four more starts before he has enough innings to qualify for the ERA lead, but his 1.81 ERA in 64⅔ innings is mighty impressive. Perhaps even more impressive: In his last two starts, Arrieta has thrown 14⅔ innings, allowed just four hits, walked just one and struck out 19. Want more? In his last five starts, he's piled up 34⅔ innings (averaging just short of seven per start), given up only 14 (!) hits, issued just three walks and struck out 46. That's a WHIP of 0.49 (!) and, having given up three earned runs over that span, an ERA of 0.78.
Whatever the Cubs have done with Arrieta, he appears to have figured out the considerable talent that had the Orioles make him their Opening Day starter two years ago. Credit to everyone involved in making the trade that sent Scott Feldman to Baltimore for Arrieta and Strop -- a real feather in the deal-making cap of Theo & Co. Credit where credit is due -- this one is looking like outright theft.
Nice game. Nice pitching. Timely hitting. You can't ask for much more, can you? Now I find myself looking forward to every Arrieta start. He's been a pleasure to watch. Keep it up, Jake.
Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson will take the mound against Boston's Clay Buchholz in game two of this three-game set Tuesday evening at Fenway Park. (Hint: I don't think Tuesday's game will be as well-pitched as Monday's.)