By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — As Cubs ace Jake Arrieta looks to move to start his season 10-0 when he takes the mound Tuesday at Wrigley Field, his aim is to regain the form he had last Aug. 30 against the same Dodgers.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Breezy On Tuesday
It was back then at Dodger Stadium, of course, when Arrieta hurled his first career no-hitter, striking out 12 while pitching his best in what would become a Cy Young-winning season. By his lofty standards of nowadays, Arrieta was pedestrian in his latest effort, allowing more than three runs in a start for the first time in 30 outings when the Cardinals touched him up for four runs on seven hits in five innings.
So Arrieta’s looking forward to the chance of getting back to his usual self will he opposes left-hander Scott Kazmir on Tuesday.
“I haven’t put a lot thought into that,”Arrieta said when asked he he thought about his no-hitter last Aug. 30 against the Dodgers. “I am sure I will have some memories of it when I take the mound. That is an interesting question. I am sure I relive those memories here and there throughout the season, regardless whether we are playing them or not. I am sure it will be special the next time I take the mound in L.A .for sure.”
Sporting a 9-0 record and 1.72 ERA, Arrieta has reflected on why he wasn’t at his best against the Cardinals last week.
“Timing wise and body feel, I was about as good as I could be,”Arrieta said. “Against St Louis, I just made some mistakes that cost me. It was basically two pitches. One to (Randal) Grichuk and one to (Matt) Adams. Outside of that, this is the feel I look for. I need to be a little more precise. It could have been a dominant performance, but you have to tip your hat to the other guy sometimes.”
The Cubs have won a record-tying 23 straight games that Arrieta has started, and he’s 20-0 in that stretch with three no-decisions. He hasn’t lost in the regular season since last July 25.
“Right now I am really close to that feel and precision I was in last season,” Arrieta said. “I look forward to building on that. I hope to be as good timing wise as I can every time out.”READ MORE: Proposed Laws Would Improve Privacy Protections For Sex Crime Victims In Illinois
In his no-hitter last August, Arrieta began with three strikeouts and finished in the same way. He agrees he was in a special zone in that start.
“My precision was spot on,” Arrieta said. “I was using the cutter effectively, back foot to lefties. I was pounding the zone with my fastball. When I am able to do that, it’s going to be tough for the opponent.”
Perhaps the only pitcher having a better season than Arrieta is Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. He’s 7-1 with a 1.56 ERA and has 105 strikeouts to just five walks.
Like most pitchers, Arrieta is in awe of Kershaw’s dominance in the last five seasons. The two were Cy Young finalists last season, with Arrieta earning the honor. Kershaw has won three in his career.
“Everyone appreciates who he is and what he has done in this game,”Arrieta said. “He will go down as one of the best ever. That is already evident by who he is and what he has done in his career so far. He is a role model for kids who watch this game and aspire to make it to this level. He does everything the right way. A good person and a special talent.”
The Cubs took the first of a four-game series with the Dodgers on Monday, earning a 2-0 win. Jason Hammel’s day was cut short after two innings due to suspected hamstring cramping, but the Cubs’ bullpen worked seven perfect innings to secure a one-hit shutout victory.
Three more games are ahead between the Cubs and Dodgers. Prior to one of these games, Arrieta will pass along a jersey for Kershaw to sign. His respect for the Dodgers ace is real.
“There are very few guys on the list of pitchers who are pitching that day that I will stop and watch,” Arrieta said. “He is No. 1 on that list. That is just for the way he can mix four-plus pitches. It’s all about pitching around damage and controlling a ballgame. You learn guys like that too — not only as a little kid, but as a peer too. He is a guy I look to for information and how to get better.”MORE NEWS: Suburban Man Says Unlike Others, He's Had Plenty Of Contact With IDES -- But It's Been Of No Help
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.