Jake Arrieta flirts with perfection in 7-3 Cubs win
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sports Reporter June 24, 2014 11:09PM
Updated: June 24, 2014 11:31PM
The process of this Cubs rebuilding has been anything but perfect. But for six innings Tuesday night, Jake Arrieta gave fans a moment to dream on, if not something for the team to build hopes on.
The right-hander acquired one year ago next week in a trade from Baltimore pulled off something almost as rare for these Cubs as the perfect game he flirted with much of the night against the Cincinnati Reds – taking the focus off the imminent trades of players like Jeff Samardzija and putting it on field.
When he retired the first 18 batters he faced in Tuesday’s 7-3 victory to take a perfect game into the seventh inning, he may have even inspired visions of the kind of return the Cubs might get when they sell off 40 percent of the rotation for the third consecutive summer – with Samardzija and flip-guy Jason Hammel at the top of the menu.
Arrieta’s bid for the franchise’s first perfect game (with apologies to Milt Pappas) ended when Billy Hamilton slapped a single leading off the Reds’ seventh.
But even after giving up two runs in that final inning of his 19th start as a Cub, Arrieta (4-1) had a 2.05 ERA and the kind of June (3-0, 1.14) that suggests he’ll be one of the long-term answers to all the pitching questions facing this team once Samardzija’s gone.
Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs an early lead with the first of his three hits – a two-out homer in the fourth off Homer Bailey that represented the first batter to reach off either pitcher in the game.
The Cubs scored again in the fifth on back-to-back hits by Nate Schierholtz and Welington Castillo.
And they built a 4-0 lead with two more in the sixth, a long inning that may have contributed to Arrieta’s rough seventh after he led off with a walk, eventually scoring four batters later.
The closest the Cubs have come to a perfect game in their history was 1972, against San Diego, when Pappas retired the first 26 batters he faced before surrendering a walk on a 3-2 call by ump Bruce Froemming that Pappas vehemently disputes to this day.
Reds cleanup hitter Devin Mesoraco homered off Neil Ramirez in the ninth inning Tuesday to tied the Cincinnati franchise record with home runs in five consecutive games.