Thursday’s Cubs/Reds game was pretty similar to the home opener at Wrigley 10 days ago. Brandon Finnegan was on the mound, the home team was getting no-hit, and the Cubs ended up winning. Of course, a few of the minor details shook out in a slightly different manner.
Take the run-scoring, for instance. Kris Bryant opened things up with a two-run bomb in the top of the 1st and Ben Zobrist followed with a solo shot in the 2nd. David Ross (solo) and Anthony Rizzo (three-run) added home runs in the 6th and Bryant hit another grand slam — the second time he’s done so in a massive blowout win in the state of Ohio — in the 7th. The Cubs notched 18 hits in all and plated 16 runners, yet no one really cared about that by the time the game had ended.
Everyone was little consumed by the gem being spun by the man in the middle of the diamond.
I doubt there were many Dubliners in attendance, as the drizzly conditions and the two-hour commute served to keep them away. Not that proximity to the ballpark mattered much. Based on a cursory eyeball test, I’d have put the sparse — even for Cincy — crowd at 50 percent blue, maybe more. Those who did make it out, however, got to see Jake Arrieta paint a portrait of the artist as a young man.
On a day that will be remembered for the passing of a legend, the Cubs ace performed like royalty. He even looked like Prince, doing a little bit of everything for the Cubs in what had to have been one of the more dominant victories anyone’s ever seen. Arrieta had two more hits and scored one more run than the Reds, though I guess he did walk three fewer times.
What Jake Arrieta is doing right now is nothing short of historic. Consider that he now has more no-hitters in his last 24 starts (two) than he has losses (one). Interestingly enough, that lone defeat came at the hands of Cole Hamels, who threw a no-hitter of his own. I could go on and one with all kinds of statistics, but that would be missing the point.
In truth, this game didn’t feel like one that could best be defined by numbers. Earlier in the evening, I had had to console my son after informing him that his baseball game had been cancelled due to rain. I mean, he was pissed. When I got to his room, he had stripped off his uniform and was throwing things around. Hawk Harrelson would have loved it. My kid was absolutely exuding TWTW. I eventually got him settled down and we ran some errands and sat down to dinner in front of the game.
Not one to worry about jinxing a no-no, I was explaining to my son what was at stake in the game and how incredible it was that Arrieta was going for a second no-hitter in such a short span. I told him how the Cubs had waited 36 years between Milt Pappas’ no-hitter in September of 1972 and Carlos Zambrano’s in September of 2008. Then we had to wait eight more years for another, Arrieta’s masterful performance in LA in August of last season. I tried to impress upon him just how rare these occurrences are.
So as the game’s progressing, he’s really getting into it. The Cubs are getting hits and scoring runs and getting hits and scoring runs…and getting hits and scoring runs. And then there’s Arrieta, just dealing. Actually, he wasn’t always dealing. The four walks were the most he had issued since June 16 of 2015, but that’s beside the point. I’m kinda working the kid into a froth and we’re feeding off of each others’ energy, just cheering and exhorting the Cubs to score more runs and make more plays.
And as the bottom of the 9th comes up, Ryne is really into it. He’s yelling and bouncing around instead of being sound asleep, and I don’t care. The outs tick off and Heyward squeezes the last one and we’re getting loud and it’s just…perfect. Being able to share that moment with my son was fantastic, and not just because it’s in keeping with every overused baseball trope ever.
This Cubs team is more than just a random collection of talented players, it’s a group of guys who genuinely care about one another. Still dripping from the Gatorade bath he took following the celebratory scrum, Arrieta talked about how happy he was for Ross, who had never caught a no-hitter before. He even mentioned that John Lackey had never been a part of a no-no. The man is basking in the glow of his second no-hitter in eight months and he’s talking about how great it is to see his teammates enjoy it.
Also great was the fact that the Cubs didn’t seem to be keeping Arrieta’s accomplishment a secret, at least not completely. Len Kasper certainly had no qualms about mentioning it on the air, which I really appreciated. The pitcher admitted afterwards that he was pretty loose throughout and that “it was a blast.” He even shared that Javy Baez had gotten up in pitchers’s spot late in the game but that Arrieta told him never to do it again or there’d be hell to pay. Nice.
In the grand scheme of things, this game means nothing more than the other 11 wins the Cubs have accumulated to this point. But that’s just on paper. In three-dimensions it was perfectly illustrative of exactly what the organization has been building toward over the past few seasons. There’s still a long way to go and more important games to win, but that’s no reason not to revel in this accomplishment. Losing sight of the present for want of the future is a grievous mistake, one that I hope none of you are making.
I have witnessed exactly zero Cubs no-hitters in my father’s company and had not seen any at all through nearly three decades of my life. But on Thursday night, I got to celebrate Jake Arrieta’s no-no with my little boy as my dad texted me at the same time. You wanna talk importance of the game? My experience means something. And so does yours. And yours.
So own it and live it and love it. In other words, re-Joyce. These Cubs are good and they’re going to continue to be good, ideally well into October. But now is no time to mitigate today’s accomplishments with tomorrow’s expectations. There’s enough garbage in the world as it is, so please don’t let a bright spot like this go to waste.
My energy and emotion was pretty much spent in the 9th inning of the game, so I apologize for not coming up with an adequate closing statement. I can only ask you to keep your hearts and minds open through the remainder of the season and to allow yourself to enjoy the little things. It’s much more fun that way.