BOSTON – Everything’s clicking now for Jake Arrieta, who’s becoming must-see TV in a Cubs season that desperately needs some new stars.
Arrieta tipped his cap to the sellout crowd on Monday night at Fenway Park, walking off the mound after almost making history in a 2-0 victory over the Red Sox. Stephen Drew had just broken up the no-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning. Even Boston fans had to recognize what they’d just seen.
“I got some goose bumps there,” Arrieta said. “That’s kind of why you play this game, for moments like that.”
Arrieta exhaled after Drew lined a single into right field. Manager Rick Renteria walked out from the dugout to get the ball after 120 pitches. Teammates tapped Arrieta’s chest. This brought the crowd of 37,814 to its feet.
“That was awesome,” Renteria said. “We were all gathered at the mound and I looked at all these guys and said: ‘Look at this.’ I mean, that’s some kind of awesome. I tip my cap to everybody, because that was some show of respect right there.”
All this six days after Arrieta took a perfect game into the seventh inning at Wrigley Field, before Billy Hamilton’s leadoff single in what turned out to be a 7-3 victory over the Reds.
Arrieta – who spent half of last season at the Triple-A level – dominated the defending World Series champs. The Red Sox (38-45) didn’t take batting practice after playing the Sunday night game at Yankee Stadium and arriving back home early Monday morning.
Arrieta (5-1, 1.81 ERA) was in complete control, notching 10 strikeouts and looking like the All-Star in a rotation filled with more buzz about Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (and where they might get traded).
“My wife kind of threw that out there a couple days ago,” Arrieta said. “I try not to think about it too much, because if I get overly excited about it, and it doesn’t happen, then it’s maybe a little disappointing. It’s something that I dreamed of, but never really expected to happen, and I’m just kind of at a loss for words when it comes to that. I would be just absolutely (honored).”
All this almost exactly a year after the Cubs took a chance on Arrieta, grabbing him and reliever Pedro Strop in the Scott Feldman trade with the Orioles. This would be a change-of-scenery deal for a guy with a 5.46 ERA in the American League, a 2012 Opening Day starter who couldn’t stick in the Baltimore rotation.
“It’s just the development as a player and a person,” Arrieta said. “I feel like I’ve grown so much in many areas. When I started playing this game, I was still a kid. And now I feel like I’m a young man who’s continuing to learn and grow as a dad, a husband, a player, a teammate.
“Those are all very important aspects of this game. Combined with a pretty good work ethic and a pretty good routine, those are the results."
Twitter would have been buzzing about a perfect game if Mike Napoli hadn’t worked a six-pitch walk with one out in the fifth inning. Arrieta began the night with a 5.90 ERA in six career games against the Red Sox, but he’s clearly figured some things out now.
“He’s found his routine,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “He trusts his stuff. He’s matured as a pitcher. (It’s) opportunity, that chance to be out there every fifth day. The organization has backed him through and through.
“He’s an intelligent pitcher with great stuff who works his ass off.”
The Cubs will need that attitude when they trade away Samardzija and Hammel. They will need someone they can count on while waiting for the pitching prospects to develop. Maybe Arrieta, who’s 28 years old and under club control through 2017, could be that frontline guy.
The last guy to throw a no-hitter against the Red Sox? Bosio with the Mariners in 1993.
“We damn near saw one tonight,” Bosio said.