Jake Arrieta can throw the baseballs and he can throw them well. So well, in fact, that he has gone an entire game without giving up a hit not once, but twice. That second time, as you might have heard, was Thursday night. Now, sure, no-hitters require a great degree of luck and the BABIP gods need to be seriously in your favor, but that doesn’t make the feat any less impressive. To do it twice in a span of 24 starts is nearly unheard of. Unless you’re Johnny Vander Meer, it which case it’s quite heard of (watch out Brewers).
There are only 36 players in baseball history who have thrown more than one no-no. Arrieta makes it 37. But see, here’s the funny thing: he didn’t have one of his best games last night. He was wild and had a high pitch count early. From what I saw, his stuff wasn’t as sharp as it so often is. He walked four batters, more than in any of the previous 23 starts. Yeah, sure, it’s not that many, but we’re talking about a man with a 5.5 percent walk rate. Despite that hiccup, it will still one of his best games because how it will go down in the books.
That got me thinking of some of my favorite Arrieta games, which I’ve listed below in chronological order:
This was the first game in which I realized, “Holy crap, this guy might actually be something.” There was some history to the game as it was the Cubs’ first trips to Fenway in a long time. I don’t really know why I personally like this game as much as I do. Maybe it was because I had the Jake Arrieta Epiphany (JAE) or it was the idea of the Cubs and Red Sox playing in Boston and the Cubs coming 4 outs away from a no hitter. We can shun Stephen Drew forever, I guess.
9/16/14 vs CIN (Cubs 7, Reds 0); Game Score — 97, Final Line — 9.0 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 13 SO
Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus told me on Twitter a few months ago that this game was his personal JAE. Everything was working for the nascent ace on this day. He had disgusting movement, control, and was just an unhittable tank. Until Brandon Phillips stepped to the plate. He hit a deep fly ball into centerfield and Matt Szczur just couldn’t corral it to keep the no hitter intact. But this game, although not his best by game score, was the game where a lot of people in the baseball world realized that this guy could be for real.
6/21/15 @ MIN (Cubs 8, Twins 0); Game Score — 86, Final Line — 9 IP 4 H 0 R 0 BB 7 SO
This wasn’t one his best games in terms of stuff but it was his first CGSO of the 2015 season and if you look at his game log, it kind of represents the now-famous second-half start. This was just dominance from a pitcher who would only get better.
8/30/15 @ LAD (Cubs 2, Dodgers 0); Game Score — 98, Final Line – 9 IP 0 H 0 R 1 BB 12 SO
Jake’s first no-hitter is one of the most dominating performances I’ve ever seen on TV. Everything, and I mean everything, was working. The slider was like a curveball, but at 87-90 mph. The curveball dropped off of the table and the fastball was a sinker at 95. The final slider to strike out Chase Utley was symbolic of the rest of the night. And there was the added benefit of having Jessica Mendoza covering for the then-suspended-now-fired Curt Schilling in the booth. Oh yeah, and then there was the mustache onesie. That was a thing.
9/27/15 vs PIT (Cubs 4, Pirates 0); Game Score — 84, Final line — 7.0 IP 1 H 0 R 9 SO
No, he didn’t throw a CG in this one but he sure was fun to watch in person. It was Sunday night, nationally televised, Cubs vs. Pirates. A preview of the Wild Card game, quite literally. Jake took the bump and Wrigley ROARED with excitement and cheers. I’d never heard the place louder. Gregory Polanco struck out to start the game and from then on Arrieta cruised. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 2nd, I was sitting in section 19, about 50 feet away from the batter’s box (thank you father’s work tickets), and could clearly hear the crack of the bat. I realized immediately that ball was getting out. And then it did. And Wrigley got even louder. It was one of the greatest atmospheres I’ve been a part of. Oh, did I mention Arrieta had a no-no through 6? Yeah. He did.
9/22/15 vs MIL (Cubs 4, Brewers 0); Game Score — 91. Final Line — 9.0 IP 3H 0 R 1 BB 11 SO
Arrieta took the bump with 19 in the win column looking to be the first pitcher to earn a 20th in a Cubs uniform since Jon Lieber. He got the win with ease. In my mind, he locked up the Cy Young with the no-hitter in LA, but cemented the truly historic second half with this game.
10/4/15 @ PIT (Cubs 4, Brewers 0); Game Score — 93. Final Line — 9.0 IP 5 H 0 R 11 SO
The question coming into the game was “What would happen with the Cy Young winner when he had real pressure on?” Arrieta provided a definitive answer. It was just a truly magnificent performance when the Cubs needed it. He had a rough 6th inning, loading the bases at one point, but got of it by rolling a double play. He ended the game by getting a line drive that went right into the glove of Starlin Castro for the Cubs’ first playoff win since 2003.
There you have it, my seven favorite Jake Arrieta starts. Gotta think this guy’s going to make me reevaluate the list a few more times before he’s done.