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Jake Arrieta comes 4 outs shy of no-hitter as Cubs beat Red Sox 2-0

BOSTON MA - JUNE 30:  Jake Arriet#49 Chicago Cubs walks back dugout after being pulled for giving up his

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 30: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs walks back to the dugout after being pulled for giving up his one and only hit in the eighth inning to Stephen Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox during the interleague game at Fenway Park on June 30, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 477585831

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Updated: August 2, 2014 6:24AM



BOSTON — He took a perfect game into the seventh inning last week. He took a no-hitter two outs into the eighth Monday.

But how far into the summer can Jake Arrieta take this June hot streak? And how far can he take the Cubs once he looks up in a month or so and realizes he might be the ace of a pitching staff that no longer has Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel?

Those are the kinds of questions that loom much larger than whether he got the no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox or whether he even would have been allowed to throw enough pitches to do it.

As it was, Arrieta — who might be pitching better than anyone in the majors this side of Clayton Kershaw — was allowed to exceed his career high in pitches until finally surrendering a line-drive single to Stephen Drew with two outs in the eighth of the Cubs’ 2-0 victory in the series opener at Fenway Park.

‘‘I think he’s found his routine,’’ said Cubs pitching coach Chris
Bosio, who — coincidentally — was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Red Sox, doing so with the Seattle Mariners in 1993. ‘‘I think he trusts his stuff. He’s matured as a pitcher. He’s pitched his way into that company [of front-line starters].’’

Arrieta, 28, has shown glimpses of being this kind of pitcher — the kind Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, now a Baltimore Orioles broadcaster, said last week has rare, elite stuff.

And going 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA in six starts in June suggests he might have found the answer to the overthinking and self-flagellation that continually derailed him in nearly four seasons with the Orioles.

‘‘Just my development as a player and a person,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘I feel I’ve grown so much in many areas.’’

The hard part will be keeping it up, keeping it simple — and keeping the Cubs’ rotation from slipping into oblivion after the trade deadline.

Nobody expects no-hitters into the eighth every time out. And nobody’s perfect, even for six innings at a time. Usually.

But the nine-strikeout stuff last week against the Cincinnati Reds and the 10-strikeout stuff for 120 pitches against the Red Sox is the kind of stuff even the Fenway faithful recognized as worthy of a standing ovation.

‘‘Something like that in Fenway is pretty rare for an opposing team,’’ said Arrieta, who tipped his cap to a crowd that wasn’t so generous in his past winless appearances there. ‘‘I got some goose bumps.’’

What he does next might be a big part of what the Cubs are able to do next. He might be a key to the kind of pitching they’re able to have in place when Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and others start trying to make an impact on the lineup next season.

Even before Arrieta delivered his latest gem, general manager Jed Hoyer talked before the game about a day when the Cubs would be buyers instead of sellers at the trade deadline.

‘‘I think we’re all really happy with the progress we’ve made,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘But talking about positives in a season when you’re losing, especially after two other seasons of losing . . . . Ultimately, this is a performance-based game, and it’s about winning on that field. So you have to be really careful when you talk about successes.

‘‘They’re not successes; they’re bright points in an otherwise fairly dark picture right now. And we need to create the entire picture.’’

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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