We're running out of superlatives to describe Jake Arrieta right now.
The Cubs ace took a perfect game into the seventh inning Sunday night as the Cubs beat the Pirates, 4-0, in front of 40,617 fans at Wrigley Field.
Arrieta gave up a leadoff single to Gregory Polanco in the seventh and hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch two batters later.
Those were the only two baserunners the Pirates had all night against Arrieta as he finished with 84 pitches in seven shutout innings, striking out nine and lowering his season ERA to 1.82 and WHIP to 0.88.
"I knew the situation I was in. Things were working well," Arrieta said. "All my pitches were pretty sharp. I knew going in it was going to be a pretty good night.
"I had a feel for everything from the get-go and it carried over. I knew there was a chance [at a no-hitter]."
It was Arrieta's league-leading 21st win of the season and 19th straight quality start. The Cubs are now 24-8 (a .750 winning percentage) in games he starts.
Arrieta has a 0.80 ERA since the All-Star Break, the best mark in MLB history.
"I talked about it earlier in the year - I thought there was another level to him," Joe Maddon said. "I think you're seeing that right now."
As if his pitching wasn't enough, Arrieta drilled a solo homer to right field in the second inning Sunday night and then sent another one to the wall in dead center in the sixth inning.
"I got two pitches in the one spot that you shouldn't throw me," he said. "Normally, anything outside of that tiny little area, I'm swinging and missing. I just put a couple good swings together."
Even with Sunday's win, the Cubs sit 4.5 games behind the Pirates in the wild-card race with only a week left, meaning the odds of hosting the one-game playoff in Chicago are very slim. These final seven games don't carry a lot of importance for the Cubs in terms of seeding.
Arrieta has blown past his career high in innings pitched in a season, but he's 29, in good shape and on an absolutely ridiculous run right now.
So it'd be awfully tough for manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs to scale back Arrieta's workload significantly right now before he starts the wild-card game in 10 days.
There is no plan for the Cubs to skip Arrieta's final start Friday in Milwaukee.
"He's in a nice little groove," Maddon said before Sunday's contest. "I don't want to interrupt his groove."
Maddon let Arrieta throw 123 pitches in a complete-game shutout against the Brewers last Tuesday.
Arrieta understands there's no need to overdo it right now, saying Saturday he didn't expect his pitch count to go over 100 come Sunday.
With the perfect game lost on his 77th pitch against the Pirates, there was no pressure to max out Arrieta, even though he had "no-hitter stuff."
"What's really setting him apart right now is what the ball's doing right in front of the plate into the catcher's mitt. It's very explosive," Maddon said.
"That's why he's been so successful. He's incredible."