The 2014 Cubs, who started off 13-27 and appeared to be in some ways worse than their predecessors of 2012 and 2013, righted the ship in August when they went 16-14.
That nice little streak ended in September when they lost eight of nine and were outscored 66-22 in that nine-game span.
Returning home to Wrigley Field, they won the first game of a series against the Reds 1-0 on a walkoff homer by Anthony Rizzo, and the next night Jake Arrieta took the mound to face Cincinnati.
Jake had yet to become the Jake! who would dominate 2015 and win the Cy Young Award, though he’d shown signs of it in an eight-start stretch in June and July 2014 when he’d posted a 1.36 ERA and 0.774 WHIP, with just 12 walks and 59 strikeouts in 53 innings. But he followed that by posting a 4.32 ERA over his next eight outings, although with a good 1.120 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 50 innings. The talent clearly was there, even if the results weren’t consistent.
All of that is the lead-in to the September 16 start against the Reds at Wrigley. Jake retired the first nine Reds before walking Billy Hamilton to lead off the fourth. (Seriously, what was it with Cubs pitchers and walking Hamilton? Hamilton’s 31 walks off Cubs pitchers is his most against any team. Glad he’s in the A.L. now.) Hamilton, though, was caught stealing and Jake continued to mow down Reds batters, retiring the next 11, so he’d faced the minimum 21 hitters through seven innings.
The Cubs had a 1-0 lead early, pushed across five in the sixth and made it 7-0 in the bottom of the seventh on a Jorge Soler home run, so there was plenty of cushion for Jake as he took his no-hit bid into the eighth.
Arrieta struck out Jay Bruce leading off the eighth, his 10th K of the evening.
Unfortunately, Brandon Phillips spoiled the night by smacking a ball to center field that Matt Szczur just missed catching, per Mark Gonzales in the Tribune:
Szczur said he missed Phillips’ drive by 4 inches.
“I would have run through the wall if I had to,” Szczur said.
Phillips’ ball fell for a double. Jake then retired the five remaining Reds hitters, three by strikeout, to finish a 13-strikeout, one-hit masterpiece, the first complete game and shutout of his career. His Game Score of 97 is the third-highest ever in a nine-inning game by a Cubs pitcher.
There will be more Jake to come in this series; this game was just a hint of his 2015 dominance. If you’d like to watch the entire game from September 16, 2014, here it is (the YouTube video says September 17, but this is the right game):