After taking two of the first three of a series against the Cardinals, the Cubs lost the last of those games and two straight to the White Sox. So Jake Arrieta's big day, as he threw a complete game and hit a home run, was welcome.
The Cubs went into the break after this game at 47-40, eight games behind the first-place Cardinals and 5½ games behind the second-place Pirates.
Really, you could not possibly ask for a better day at Wrigley Field than everyone had on Sunday.
Perfect weather, and I mean absolute perfection, unlimited sunshine, temperatures in the mid-70s and light winds off Lake Michigan, and that's especially welcome given how awful the weather's been most of the spring and early summer.
A capacity crowd, the biggest of 2015 so far, 41,688.
And a near-flawless performance by Jake Arrieta, who deserved to go to the All-Star Game (though he wouldn't have pitched, coming off a start Sunday). Arrieta had the stuff and command to throw a no-hitter Sunday, and didn't miss by much. He allowed just two hits: a single by Tyler Saladino through a right-side shift, and a double down the left-field line by Carlos Sanchez that was just out of the reach of Kris Bryant. That one led to the White Sox' only run in a 3-1 Cubs victory that sent them to the All-Star break on a real high note and kept the Cubs in possession, by one game, of the second wild-card spot in the National League.
Arrieta capped off his great pitching day by slamming his first career home run. It bounced in, then out, of the new "moat" in front of the left-field bleachers and was retrieved for Arrieta by Travis Wood. That's worth a look, I think:
That starts off a list of "hasn't happened since":
- It was the first home run by a Cubs pitcher this year, and the first since Travis Wood hit one against the Cardinals July 25, 2014 at Wrigley Field.
- Arrieta became the first Cubs pitcher other than Wood (who hit three in 2014) to homer since, of all people, Edwin Jackson, hit one September 10, 2013 against the Reds.
- Arrieta threw the Cubs' third complete game of 2015. It was the first Cub CG at home this year, and the first Cub CG at Wrigley since he one-hit the Reds last September 16.
- It's the first time a Cub has thrown a complete game and allowed a run since Jeff Samardzija won 11-1 over the Nationals August 19, 2013.
- It's the first time the Cubs have had three complete games before the All-Star break since 2005, when they had four before the break (Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Glendon Rusch and Sergio Mitre).
- Arrieta posted his 10th win, tying his career high, and it's the first time the Cubs have had a 10-game winner at the break since 2008 (Zambrano and Ryan Dempster).
And for the second time this homestand, which ended up with a 5-5 mark, the Cubs completed a game in 2:18. That could have been faster if not for a rather lengthy look at Dexter Fowler being thrown out at third in the eighth inning after an Anthony Rizzo single. Replays appeared to show Fowler's foot on the base just before Saladino tagged him, but the reviewers didn't agree. See if you do (note, video is with Sox announcers):
That was just a small blip in what was perhaps the best Wrigley game of the year. The Cubs took a page out of the White Sox playbook by hitting Jose Quintana hard in the first inning, scoring two times after the first four batters in the bottom of the first. Fowler, who had three hits on the day, led off with a single and scored one out later on a triple by Bryant. Jorge Soler singled Bryant in for a 2-0 lead, and the Cubs might have gotten more except for yet another slick double play turned by the White Sox to end the inning. Give them credit, they've found an outstanding defensive second baseman in Sanchez.
The rest of the game was taken over by Arrieta and Quintana. Arrieta struck out six of the first nine hitters he faced, then had the Sox beating the ball into the ground with 11 ground-ball outs between the second and eighth. Then he struck out the side in the ninth to end it. Quintana was just as dominant, striking out nine Cubs between the second and seventh, his only real mistake in that time the home-run ball to Arrieta.
The complaint department not only is closed, but boarded up tight for vacation over the All-Star break. It doesn't change the fact that this team needs to start hitting, and that we still don't know the status of Miguel Montero, whose MRI results from earlier Sunday aren't yet available. The team might yet go after another starting pitcher, and relief help is on the way in the person of Rafael Soriano, who's expected to be activated shortly after the break. Pitching has been one of this team's strengths and I would expect it to continue to be so.
The Cubs paid tribute to Ernie Banks by all wearing No. 14 uniforms, throwbacks from 1958, Ernie's first MVP season. As always, the team paid careful attention to detail in creating not only those uniforms, but the White Sox 1959 road throwbacks. The right-field video board also acknowledged the all-14 lineup (click to embiggen):
All in all, a perfect day at the ballyard. In yesterday's recap, I gave the first word to Joe Maddon. Today I'll give him some of the last words:
#Cubs Maddon: "Everybody was wearing No. 14 today -- you can't lose, can you?"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 12, 2015
Indeed, Joe, indeed. And again, kudos to everyone on this team, from scouts to executives, who pulled off the deal acquiring Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger -- a trade that's rapidly becoming one of the best in franchise history.
Stick around BCB during the All-Star break! We'll have plenty of material here including threads for the Home Run Derby featuring Rizzo and Bryant and of course, for the All-Star Game itself. The Cubs' 47-40 mark is their best at the break since 2008 (57-38) and we look forward to a great second half of the season.