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December 2015

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COMMENTS

Remembering Jake's No No

Written by , Posted in General

The weather outside is finally frightful, as the song goes, so we turn to the hot stove for comforting thoughts of baseball and summer time. Many recent VFB postings look forward to next summer and dreams of a championship. But today, I want to look back to one very extraordinary game last August 30. That night, Jake Arrieta no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers allowing only two base runners, while striking out twelve hitters. It was a dominating performance and only the fourteenth no-hitter in the Cubs’ history.

It was both likely and unlikely to happen. The stage was set for Arrieta. He was peaking and everyone in baseball knew it. The second half of the ’15 season, Arrieta was the best pitcher on the planet. By the latter days of August, Arrieta’s name was being tossed around as a serious Cy Young candidate, even though Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke were both enjoying Cy Young –worthy seasons themselves and had out-pitched Arrieta the first half. Yet, that Sunday night of August 30, the Cubs played on national TV (ESPN) and Arrieta had everyone’s attention. He had 14 consecutive quality starts, going 5-0 during August, heading into the final game of the series in Los Angeles. Baseball people knew that Jake had a no-hitter in him. During the ’14 season, he had taken a no-hitter into the 7th inning three separate times. No Cubs pitcher had done that in decades.

But a no-hitter is always unlikely. And the Dodgers had been no-hit only ten nights earlier, when Mike Fiers blanked the Dodgers and left them hitless in Houston. How unlikely was it that the western division leading Dodgers could be no-hit twice in a ten day period?

More than that, the no-hitter is simply a rare and special thing in baseball. As mentioned, there had been only thirteen in the Cubs’ 144-plus years before Arrieta’s no-hitter. Only eight of those occurred in the modern era (after the beginning of play in the World Series in 1903). And the majority of the Cubs’ no-hitters can be characterized as strange, at least in some of the circumstances. The last one before Jake’s was Carlos Zambrano’s unusual no-hitter in 2008 against the Astros, a home game for the Astros, but played in Milwaukee because Hurricane Ike was threatening Houston. Before that was Milt Pappas’ bid for a perfect game in September 1972. He lost the perfect game when he walked pinch hitter Larry Stahl on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth. Pappas preserved the no-hitter when he induced the next batter to pop-up to second, but losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth had never happened before in a major league baseball game. Pappas was preceded by Burt Hooton’s 1972 no-hitter in only his fourth major league start. Hooton was preceded by Kenny Holtzman’s two no-hitters, one in ’69 and the second in ’71. In the ’69 game, Holtzman did not strike out a single hitter. In the ’71 game, he scored the only run of the game. So, the Cubs’ history with no-hitters was littered with weird occurrences.
But there was nothing weird about Arrieta’s baseball performance against the Dodger’s last August. It was masterly. The game began with a promising top of the first for the Cubs. Kris Bryant hit a two run homer to put the Cubs up and it looked like the Cubs might have a good offensive night. Then Jake went to work. He neatly avoided trouble early, while he appeared to get stronger and stronger. He sat the first six hitters down with no hint of worry and he was throwing all of his pitches for swinging strikes.

In the third, however, Arrieta benefitted from a close call that might have been more controversial if it had occurred in the later innings. Kike Hernandez hit a sharp one hopper directly at Starlin Castro at second base. Castro tried to make the play on the short hop, but failed to stay down. The ball bounded up and off Castro’s mid-section to his right and he could not retrieve it in time to make the play. You can see it here http://m.mlb.com/news/article/146416620/starlin-castro-says-he-made-error-in-no-hitter .

Jerry White, the official scorer, ruled it an error. ESPN News later reported that White saw the play four times: once live, once on replay and twice in slow motion and had no doubt that Castro’s misplay was an error. Adrian Gonzalez, however, claimed after the game that several Cubs admitted to him that the play could have been ruled a hit. Jake graciously conceded the same after the game.

After that play, Arrieta allowed only one more runner when he walked Jimmy Rollins with two out in the sixth inning. Thereafter, Jake was in command and seemingly became stronger each inning. Castro contributed a nice grab of Carl Crawford’s line drive up the middle to end the 7th. And Addison Russell made a quality play to throw out Hernandez on a hard ground ball, which Arrieta failed to snag in the 8th. Arrieta capped off the game by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth. He finished efficiently with 116 pitches thrown. It was a classic performance by a gifted power pitcher at the top of his game. Cubs fans are unlikely to see a better performance in a long time to come.

Not to be forgotten is that Arrieta made Bryant’s homer in the first hold up. Although the Cubs had men on base numerous times during the game, they failed to score after the top of the first. The final score was Cubs 2 – Dodgers 0.

After the 27th out, things finally got weird in the best Cubs’ tradition. Jake appeared for his post game interviews in a one-piece pajama suit. By happenstance, Joe Maddon had scheduled a PJ party for the flight home to Chicago after the game. It was another unconventional step in our unconventional manager’s successful campaign to keep things loose during the pressure of the run up to the post-season.

Jake’s PJs were decorated with moustaches and he was happy to appear before the cameras decked out in his night wear. I guess the Cubs should have expected nothing less on that unusual night in an unusual season for an unusually talented pitcher.

  • Bartz

    It’s a shame that Wood’s 20 K game wasn’t a no-hitter. That was the best pitching performance of all time and he did it in his 5th major league start.

    • CBPtOSU

      That hit should have been scored an error. That game made me a Cubs fan. I was home sick from school that day and watched baseball for the first time ever.

      • Glad the first game wasn’t the one where Sue’s sister and 49 others pelted you with trash. You’d be known as BPtOSU.

      • CBPtOSU

        Cubs fans don’t throw trash at other fans. I watched that game on the idiot box at my house. The first time I went to Wrigley Field was in 2001

      • Sue’s sister is a White Sox fan.

      • CBPtOSU

        White Sox fans don’t throw trash at Cubs fans at Wrigley Field. I was at Sox Park when said incident happened.

      • We’re a bit crossed-up. I was suggesting that it was good that the first game you watched was Kid K’s gem, and not the game where Sue’s sister hucked trash at you. I’d guess that would leave a negative impression about baseball in general.

      • CBPtOSU

        Probably just White Sox fans. I was 10 in 1998. In 2005, I was 17.

    • Brad Lyerla

      It was classic. Could easily have been a no-no. Missed it live, but have seen it replayed twice on CSN (I think).

  • Doc Raker

    I was at Burt Hooton’s no hitter in 1972. Milt Pappas was 0-2 on Larry Stahl before walking him and to this day Milt will complain that the ump missed the calls and he should have struck Stahl out. Milt was the coach at the college I played at prior to me being there. One of the players was pissed off with Milt and told him during an argument, “They were all balls Milt” and Milt went nuts.

    How about Sandy Koufax’s perfect game against the Cubs Sept 9 1965. The Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley threw a 1 hitter and only gave up 2 base runners and 1 unearned run. Only two total base runners for both teams is a MLB record. Both pitchers had a no hitter going into the 7th inning. After Glen Beckert’s first at bat Ron Santo asked him what Koufax had that night in which Beckert replied, “Not much.” After Santo was retired for the 3rd time he told Beckert, “You don’t know shit about this game.”

    I remember watching Kerry Wood’s 20K game, Chip Carayand Steve Stone were so excited to be witnessing it and broadcasting it. Stone knew how special it was while it was going on and to this day calls it the most dominant pitching performance he has ever seen. Len would of been talking about the new Asia Album that was just released if he was broadcasting. So glad we had that day with Kerry and Stoner. Jim D was in the broadcast booth for Houston.

    Steve Stone: Watching how the Houston Astros approached
    him that day, for one day in the life of Kerry Wood, he probably
    understood how it felt to be godly as far as a pitcher is concerned,
    because they didn’t touch the ball. They didn’t get close to another
    hit. It was impossible.

    Len Kasper: I really dig when Pete Townshend smashes his guitar while on stage.

    • Brad Lyerla

      Roc – I was lucky enough to see Nolan Ryan’s 7th no hitter at the old Arlington Stadium. Frankly, the first few innings, I though Jimmy Keyes had better stuff. But Ryan got stronger. It was very cool to see.
      I also saw a combined no hitter thrown by Blue Moon Odom and Francisco Barrios in ’76 for the White Sox. It was ugly. Oakland had men on base all day, but no hits. Very unusual, but a great thing to have seen. Brad

      • Doc Raker

        I think 7 no hitters is the most impressive record in baseball and it will never be broken. I don’t think anyone will even come close. Ryan had another twelve 1 hitters and eighteen 2 hitters. In 1972 he held opposing hitter to 5.26 hits per nine innings. He was 44 years old when he threw the 7th no hitter.
        People talk about DiMaggio’s record never being broken but I think 7 no hitters is unattainable in today’s game. Twenty six years in the bigs, wow.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Doc – Ryan was remarkable. In the ninth inning of his 7th no hitter, he was consistently above 95 mph. (We were seated by the guy with the gun. Speed of pitches was not broadcast to those in attendance back then. Brad

      • Doc Raker

        On the same night Ricky Henderson broke Lou Brock’s all time stolen base record. After breaking the record Ricky picked up the base and proclaimed, “Yesterday Lou Brock was the greatest, today Ricky is the greatest.” After Nolan’s 7th no hitter Nolan walked to the trainers room and rode the stationary bike for his usual work out. Humble and great.

      • Brad Lyerla

        I remember that well. I got back to my hotel after the game and Sports Center was on. Naturally, Henderson and Ryan were the main features. Two very different men and two very different reactions to their independent moments of greatness.
        Ryan quiet and dignified — a little like Gary Cooper. Admirable if maybe a dull interview. But I don’t think he is humble inside. I think that is what he chooses to show.
        Henderson brash and proud. Telling the world loudly, what we already knew, that he was one of the greatest of his era and that he had surpassed the great Lou Brock.
        It was a fun night.

      • Doc Raker

        Well said.