By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta flirted with history Tuesday evening as he attempted to become the first player in franchise history to throw a perfect game.
Arrieta had the perfecto firmly in hand through six innings, with eight strikeouts, in what was shaping up as a classic performance. Then Cincinnati speedster Billy Hamilton singled up the middle to end Arrieta’s perfect game bid leading off the seventh.
“It is tough to put those guys away like that,” Arrieta said after Chicago’s 7-3 win. “Hamilton kind of jump starts their offense. (Todd) Frazier, (Joey) Votto and (Jay) Bruce with their power, make it a tough lineup too handle.”
The last Cub to throw a no-hitter was Carlos Zambrano, who did it on Sept. 19, 2008, in Milwaukee against Houston after the game was moved due to Hurricane Ike.
On Tuesday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said that like most of the people on the bench, he left Arrieta alone between innings.
“I am not superstitious, but I wasn’t going to start (talking too him),” Renteria said.
Arrieta had to run the bases in the Cubs’ two-run sixth inning, and that could have sapped the pitcher of some of his energy.
“It was a long inning in the sixth,” Arrieta said. “Running the bases was not that tough, but couple that with the long layoff and being on the mound added a little bit to it (getting tired). I left a couple balls up to Bruce and (Devin) Mesoraco, and they put some good wood on it and drove in a couple of runs.”
Arrieta gave up two runs in the seventh but finished the inning before he was removed from the contest. Arrieta gave up a total of two runs on three hits while striking out nine Reds hitters (94 pitches 65 strikes).
Arrieta has struck out 36 batters in his last four starts, walking just two hitters.
“I am just being free and easy,” Arrieta said after moving to 4-1. “I seem to know where I need to be in certain spots of the delivery. All that being said, I don’t think about it out on the mound — just a little bit while I am going through my bullpen routine.”
Arrieta garnered his first victory of the season at Wrigley field, despite allowing just three earned runs in 23 innings pitched over four starts at home this season.