CINCINNATI (AP) — Jake Arrieta’s first no-hitter set him apart. Pitching another one in the span of only 11 regular-season starts has put the Chicago Cubs ace in elite company.
And his catcher suspects that the reigning NL Cy Young winner has a few more of those no-hit moments left in him.
Arrieta overcame early sloppiness and bore down at the end, shutting down the Cincinnati Reds in a 16-0 rout on Thursday night that left everyone amazed except him.
After all, he’d done it before.
“It feels different the second time,” said Arrieta, who did his best pitching in the last few innings with the gem in reach. “I was a little more relaxed as the game progressed.”
Arrieta (4-0) struck out six, walked four and allowed only six balls hit out of the infield during the first no-hitter in Major League Baseball this season.
No spectacular plays were needed by Cubs fielders to preserve Arrieta’s performance. He threw 119 pitches, retiring Eugenio Suarez on a routine flyball to right field to end it.
Arrieta threw his first career no-hitter last Aug. 30 at Dodger Stadium, beating Los Angeles 2-0. That game came as Arrieta put together one of the best pitching stretches in club history — he’s 15-0 in his last 16 regular-season starts.
“What can I say?” manager Joe Maddon said. “Man, it was spectacular.”
The Reds hadn’t been held hitless in a regular-season game since 1971, when Rick Wise did it for Philadelphia at Riverfront Stadium. In the 2010 NL playoffs, Roy Halladay of the Phillies pitched a no-hitter against Cincinnati.
“We got dominated,” Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. “That’s the most dominating game I’ve ever been a part of. He was great; we weren’t.
“Every time he goes out there, he’s got no-hit stuff. He’s arguably the best pitcher in the game today.”
Arrieta is among several pitchers in the last decade to pitch two no-hitters. The 30-year-old righty is on the list with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum and Homer Bailey, who threw the only other no-hitter at Great American Ball Park on July 2, 2013, against the Giants.
“I feel like I didn’t do a whole lot,” said David Ross, who caught his first no-hitter. “That animal was in control the whole time. He locked it in when he needed to.
“He’s got the capability of doing that every night out.”
At 39, Ross has already announced this will be his final season. Arrieta said it was exciting to let Ross have this thrill.
Arrieta is the first Cubs pitcher to win his first four starts in a season since Greg Maddux went 5-0 in 2006. Ken Holtzman is the only other Cubs pitcher to throw more than one no-hitter in the modern era, doing it in 1969 and 1971.
Kris Bryant homered twice, including a grand slam, and drove in six runs. Arrieta contributed a pair of singles and a walk as the Cubs pulled away.
The 16-run margin approached the most-lopsided victory in major league history. In 1884, Pud Galvin and Buffalo beat the Detroit Wolverines 18-0 in the National League, STATS said.
By Arrieta’s standards, it was a bit of a struggle. He walked three batters — he’d allowed only two walks in his first three starts combined — and needed 85 pitches to get through six innings. After that, he dug in and made quick work of the Reds’ lineup.
“In the sixth, I knew it was going to be a possibility for me,” Arrieta said.
The thousands of Cubs fans in the crowd of 16,497 were on their feet cheering as Arrieta walked Scott Schebler to open the ninth, got pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart on a popup, Zack Cozart on a fly to center and Suarez on an easy fly.
Arrieta and Ross embraced halfway between home plate and the mound as the rest of the Cubs circled around him.
In September 2014, Arrieta lost a no-hit bid against the Reds on Brandon Phillips’ one-out double in the eighth at Wrigley Field.
This time, the offense made the outcome a moot point while extending the Cubs’ best start since 1970 at 12-4.
Bryant hit a two-run shot in the first off Brandon Finnegan (1-1), and his third career grand slam in the seventh off Drew Hayes made it 13-0. Ben Zobrist and Ross added solo shots, and Anthony Rizzo had a three-run homer.
As the Cubs made it a romp, there was only one question left: How far could Arrieta go? He gave himself a chance by getting through the seventh and eighth innings on only 18 pitches, bearing down against an overmatched lineup.
Finnegan started at Wrigley Field on April 11 and didn’t allow a hit until Ross singled with two outs in the seventh. They were ready for the left-hander this time. Dexter Fowler doubled off the wall in center on Finnegan’s first pitch of the game, and Bryant’s homer made it 2-0.
Arrieta added to his club-record of 24 consecutive quality starts since June 21, going 20-1. He’s 15-0 in 16 starts since August 1 of last season, allowing a total of seven earned runs.
BEATING THE REDS
The Cubs have won their last five games in Cincinnati, the first time they’ve done that since the 1972-73 seasons.
Reds: CF Billy Hamilton was out of the lineup with a sore left thumb, injured when he hit his glove while trying for a catch in St. Louis last weekend. He aggravated it on Wednesday and will be sidelined a couple of days.
Cubs: LH Jon Lester (1-1) is 1-0 in five career starts against the Reds with a 3.82 ERA.
Reds: Jon Moscot (0-0) makes his second start. He came off the DL on Sunday and received no decision in a 4-3 loss at St. Louis, giving up six hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay