By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta came close Tuesday night to throwing the first no-hitter at Wrigley Field in 42 years. Arrieta dominated the Reds, going 7 1/3 innings without giving up a hit until Brandon Phillips lined double into the left-center field gap. The 28-year-old Arrieta had tremendous command, walking only one batter while striking out 10 before the Phillips’ double.
Arrieta finished with a complete game one-hitter with 13 strikeouts. It was his first career complete game and shutout in 96 starts.
“It was nice to shake the catcher’s hand at the end of a game,” Arrieta said. “That is something I wanted to do for my entire career. Now doing it is a good experience going forward.”
Center fielder Matt Szczur made a sensational diving attempt on Phillips’ double into the gap, but it just eluded his gasp by mere inches.
“You are on your toes for every pitch,” Szczur said about the added adrenaline he had in the moment. “You are on your toes waiting for the ball to be hit to you. You want to make the play for him.”
Arrieta reacted with a smile of resignation after the no-hitter was broken up, knowing history for this evening was taking a pass on his brilliant performance.
“I was kind of picking a spot to watch the ball,” Arrieta said in reacting to Phillips’ solid contact. ” I started to track it, and I knew it was going to be close. It was one of those things — he hit it into the gap and it just split our defense”
Arrieta carried a perfect game into the seventh inning against Cincinnati on June 24 before Billy Hamilton broke up that masterpiece with a single to lead off the inning. On Tuesday, Arrieta looked like he could have pitched 15 innings, as he finished strong by striking out two hitters in the ninth to reach a career-high 13 strikeouts.
“When you see some of the swings these guys take, you know there is a lot of action on his pitches,” Cubs manager Rickey Renteria said. “The guys’ swings give us an indication what kind of pitches Jake had.”
Arrieta is now 9-5 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.02 WHIP this season.
The last time a no hitter was pitched at Wrigley was Sept. 2, 1972, by the Cubs’ Milt Pappas, who had a perfect game through 8 2/3 innings when he walked Larry Stahl of the San Diego Padres on a borderline 3-2 pitch. Pappas then induced the next hitter to pop up to second to record the no-hitter.
Carlos Zambrano threw the last Cubs’ no-hitter, that coming on Sept. 14, 2008, in Milwaukee. The oddity of that game was that the home team at Miller Park was the Houston Astros. Due to Hurricane Ike, the games were switched from Texas to Milwaukee, with the Astros having last at-bats.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.