Thursday was an anniversary of sorts for Jake Arrieta. On April 21, 2013, Arrieta scattered seven hits and five runs over five ineffective innings in a loss to the Dodgers. His reward? A trip to the minor leagues. Arrieta would spend the better part of two months in Triple-A, only making one more start for the Orioles before getting traded.
Three years later, Arrieta continued his meteoric rise with his second no-hitter in less than eight months. It came on a day where conditions were so bleak that neither team was able to take batting practice. In the end, the Cubs cruised to a 16-0 win over the Reds, staking their claim as the most feared team in baseball.
Arrieta described his pre-game warmup session as “sloppy.” The reigning Cy Young winner walked three batters in his first four frames, an unusual occurrence for one of the league’s premier hurlers. But he cruised through the next five innings, allowing just one more base runner. On Arrieta’s 119th pitch, Eduardo Suarez skied a popup to right field. Jason Heyward squeezed it in his glove for the final out.
It was the 15th no-hitter in Cubs history. Thursday’s no-no also wiped out Cincinnati’s streak of 7,109 consecutive games without being no-hit (not including the postseason), a spell that lasted from June 23, 1971 until last night. It had been the longest active streak in the major leagues. That now belongs to the Athletics, who were last no-hit on July 13, 1991. Thursday was the second no-hitter thrown at Great American Ballpark. Homer Bailey recorded the first back in 2013.
On a team stacked with All-Star talent, Arrieta might be the most dangerous weapon of all. If not, he’s certainly the most consistent. Over his last 24 regular season starts, Arrieta is an unreal 20-1 with a 0.86 ERA.
It’s been a while since Arrieta lost a game. In fact, the Cubs have won the last 17 times he’s pitched, which matches a major league record. His last loss came against the Phillies on July 25. Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter in that game. Apparently that’s what it takes to beat Arrieta these days.
Thursday’s pitching matchup featured a pair of TCU alums but Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan mostly took a backseat in this one. The 23-year-old was lit up for five runs in only four innings of work. David Ross, a 39-year-old journeyman playing in his final major league season, caught a no-hitter for the first time in his career. He also went 2-for-4 with a solo home run off rookie Tim Melville. Arrieta’s first text to his wife after throwing the no-hitter said “Did it for Rossy.”
Arrieta made history Thursday but so did his teammates. Chicago’s margin of victory was the largest of any no-hitter thrown in the modern era (since 1900). The offensive outburst was fueled by Kris Bryant, who belted a pair of home runs while matching a career-high with six RBI. One of those two round-trippers included a grand slam, the third of his career. Thursday also marked Bryant’s fourth career multi-homer game.
Anthony Rizzo hasn’t hit for a high average this year (.186) but his power stroke is doing just fine. His contribution to Thursday’s onslaught was a three-run shot in the sixth inning. The Cubs completed the rare home run cycle: a solo home run, a two-run homer, a three-run homer and a grand slam, all in the same game. Arrieta joined the hit parade with a pair of singles, raising his batting average to an impressive .273.
Arrieta was actually drafted by Cincinnati coming out of high school but chose to attend college instead. Watching him dominate Thursday must have been a bitter pill to swallow. But the Reds aren’t fretting about the one who got away. And why should they? They walked four times Thursday! Now there’s a moral victory.
Thursday’s win puts the Cubs on pace for 122 victories, which would be the most in league history by a pretty comfortable margin. That’s not going to happen but 100 wins is certainly within their grasp. In spring training, the Cubs’ slogan was “embrace the target.” It’s safe to say they’ve done a pretty good job of that in the early going.
Slugfest at Fenway
They say every dog has his day. Let it be known that April 21, 2016 was NOT David Price’s day. It wasn’t Jake Odorizzi’s day either, which made for an interesting afternoon of baseball. It was also a lengthy one: Tampa Bay’s 12-8 win over Boston lasted all of four hours and 16 minutes.
For the second time this homestand, Price was handed a big lead but couldn’t keep it. Boston jumped out to a 5-1 advantage thanks to a six-hit first inning that featured a home run by Dustin Pedroia and doubles by Xander Bogaerts and Travis Shaw. It could have easily been seven hits if not for a brilliant catch by Steven Souza to rob David Ortiz of extra bases.
Tampa Bay responded with one run in the third and six more in the fourth. Price’s former roommate Evan Longoria took him deep for his third home run of the season. Longoria had been hitless in 10 previous at-bats versus Price.
Tampa Bay’s other home run came from an unlikely source. Curt Casali entered Thursday in an 0-for-13 slump but manager Kevin Cash kept him in the lineup because of his past success against Price (3-for-6 with two home runs). The move paid off as Casali homered and drove in two runs.
Price’s ERA ballooned to 7.06 after Thursday’s disaster. That’s probably not what the Red Sox were expecting when they handed him a $217 million contract this past winter. Thursday was only the 11th time in 217 starts Price has failed to pitch at least four innings. Red Sox starters entered the game with a 2.67 ERA with Christian Vazquez behind the plate. That number has since increased to 4.70.
Thursday’s win matched the Rays’ largest comeback at Fenway Park, tying their four-run turnaround from July 23, 2002. For those of you who enjoy useless trivia, I was at the first game of that doubleheader when Nomar Garciaparra hit three home runs on his birthday.
Boston manager John Farrell made a puzzling decision by sticking with rookie William Cuevas with the score tied at eight. Koji Uehara seemed like the obvious choice in that situation but he never entered the game. Koji appears to be in Farrell’s doghouse after blowing a late lead Monday against Toronto. Closer Craig Kimbrel was also conspicuously absent from Thursday’s proceedings.
Brandon Guyer sparked the Rays’ offense by reaching base five times. He singled twice and was hit by three pitches. Meanwhile Pedroia collected his 1,500th hit, becoming the 10th Red Sox player to reach that milestone.
Quick Hits: Keone Kela will undergo surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow on Friday. He’ll need about three months to recover … Clayton Kershaw’s philosophy Thursday was “bend, don’t break.” He allowed double-digit hits for only the fourth time in his career but still managed to pitch eight innings of one-run ball. He also threw one of the weirdest pitches you’ll ever see … One more note on Kershaw: he’s the first Dodgers pitcher to allow 10 hits with 10 strikeouts in the same game since Hideo Nomo did it in 1997 … Yasmani Grandal broke a 1-1 tie in the 10th inning with an RBI double off Braves reliever Alexi Ogando. Grandal has hit .438 since coming off the disabled list … When the Brewers lose, they do it with style. In their nine losses this year, they’ve been outscored by a combined 66-17. That includes Thursday’s 8-1 loss to Minnesota … Aaron Hicks snapped an 0-for-17 drought with an RBI single Thursday night. He also made this highlight reel catch … Manny Machado extended his hitting streak to 14 games Thursday against the Blue Jays. That matches a career-high set in 2013 … Joey Rickard recorded his first major league steal. He also burned a hole in Josh Donaldson’s glove on this scorching line drive … Dylan Bundy recorded his first MLB strikeout on Thursday. The former first-round pick went four years without pitching in the majors while battling various injuries … Matt Wieters earned his second career ejection on Thursday. He took exception to a strike three call from home plate umpire Dan Bellino in the fifth inning. Wieters thought he checked his swing. Bellino did not … Ian Desmond hit his first home run in a Texas uniform Thursday against Houston. It came off last year’s AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel … Homer Bailey (Tommy John surgery) saw mixed results in Thursday’s rehab appearance for Triple-A Louisville. He gave up three hits, two runs and two walks with six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings. Bailey threw 67 pitches while touching 97 mph on the radar gun … Chasen Shreve served up home runs to Khris Davis and Coco Crisp on his first two pitches Thursday night. Ouch … Danny Valencia was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a strained left hamstring. Tyler Ladendorf is expected to take his roster spot … The benches cleared Thursday in San Francisco when Josh Osich plunked David Peralta for the second day in a row. Peralta got the last laugh as Arizona completed its four-game sweep with a 6-2 victory … Mike Napoli slugged his first career pinch-hit homer on Thursday. It was his third blast of the season … Prince’s death hit me like a ton of bricks. Dozens of players including Matt Kemp, Brandon Phillips and Alex Rodriguez used Prince songs for their walkup music on Thursday night. Here’s Torii Hunter and a few others singing Little Red Corvette.