Dead Reds: Jake Arrieta Dominates Cincy…Again

On a night when they faced a Cy Young hopeful, it was the Cubs’ starting pitcher who looked like an award-winner. Of course, until Clayton Kershaw finally breaks down, any talk of awards pretty much starts and ends with his name. But Jake Arrieta was absolutely filthy on Tuesday night, throwing 9 innings of 1-hit, 1-walk baseball to beat Johnny Cueto, who had his worst outing of the season.

And while this was easily Arrieta’s best effort of the year, it wasn’t really that surprising. He seems to have the Reds’ number, as this was the 2nd time he’s no-hit them through at least 6. In that game, Billy Hamilton broke up the no-no. This time, the speedy CF represented the Redlegs’ only base runner through 7.1 innings after walking in the 1st. He then stole second but was called out upon review, which brings up an interesting stat.

Billy Hamilton was something of a legend, setting steals records in the minors (103 in A-ball in 2011 and 155 in A+ and AA in 2012) and inspiring folk legends along the way. Tagging up on infield pop-ups, getting two bases on a sac fly, that sort of stuff. But he results with the Reds have been anything but legendary. Among all major leaguers with at least 40 stolen base attempts, Hamilton’s success rate is…well, it’s not good.

Alas, Hamilton was not the man to record his team’s first hit on Tuesday night. No, that honor was left to Brandon Phillips, who roped a double past a diving Matt Szczur in deep left-center. And it would’ve been a nice hit too, had the .258/.301/.362 hitter not stood and admired it a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of a little gamesmanship. But it’s one thing to pose after a game-winner or an epic homer and quite another to try to show up a guy who’s made you and your lineup look foolish all evening. That’s just being a punk. I’m sure @datdudeBP feels pretty awesome about that hit though.

And you probably don’t care, but this performance also lowered Arrieta’s home ERA and WHIP to 1.89 and 0.91, respectively. Oddly enough, while his road ERA (3.64) is nearly twice that of his home mark, Arrieta’s FIP is actually better away from home (2.34 vs. 2.50). While this indicates that he might be getting just a little lucky at Wrigley, it also shows that he’s getting some tough breaks elsewhere. Either way, these are excellent numbers.

Anyhow, back to the game and a man who didn’t need to waste time preening and posing. Jorge Soler, who had already doubled in the 6th to give him hits in 13 of 14 big league games, padded the Cubs 6-run lead with a blast in the 7th. It was his 5th of the season but first at Wrigley, capping a 2-hit, 2-RBI night and raising his average to .373.

In the afterglow of the big hit, Cubs color man Jim Deshaies described the big Cuban import as being “long and strong.” And while Arrieta’s performance and the general beatdown of a division rival were amazing enough in and of themselves, the night would have been utterly legendary had JD completed his superlative with “and he’s down to get the friction on.”

I’m sure Seattle’s most successful rap artist (sorry, Macklemore) would have approved of the reference too, since baby got back…back…gone! Butt I digress.

After the recent 7-game skid, a game like this is nice on several levels. It helped to restore a little faith in the franchise and solidified Jake Arrieta’s status as an ace in the making, while also lending credence to the front office’s methods. And it certainly helped that this performance came on a non-football night, which surely meant more viewers.

Arrieta just missed out on becoming the first Cubs pitcher to toss a no-hitter at Wrigley since Milt Pappas accomplished that feat in 1972, and the first since Carlos Zambrano in 2008 to throw one anywhere. But if he can keep pitching like he has this season, Jake’s going to have plenty more chances to supplant both men on those lists.

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