By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Jake Arrieta calls Cincinnati his least favorite city to visit, “Because there is not much to do there, just nothing going on.”
So he made sure something was going on Thursday night in Great American Ball Park. He pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds as his Chicago Cubs pounded the bejabbers out of a few dozen basebalsl for a 16-0 thrashing.
There might be nothing interesting for Arrieta to do around his downtown hotel, where he and the Cubs stay when they are in town, but Arrieta finds plenty to do when he is on the pitching rubber.
It was his second no-hitter, coming after he no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers in Dodger Stadium last August 30, a 2-0 Cubs victory.
AMAZINGLY, ARRIETA AND his catcher, former Reds catcher David Ross, called this no-hitter a bit of a struggle because early in the game his command and location were off. It caused him to walk four, uncharacteristically high for him.
The Reds, though, hit only two balls into the outfield over the first six innings and only five for the game. There were only two near-misses — a hard-hit ball by Zack Cozart to third baseman Kris Bryant in the third and a hard-stroked ball by Joey Votto in the fourth that was gloved by first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Cubs Manager Joe Maddon was concerned about Arrieta’s pitch count when it reached 85, but as long as the Reds had no hits Maddon was not about to leave his seat and do anything drastic.
“You never want to interfere with somebody’s greatness,” said Maddon. “We had a conversation that if our guys get to the point of a no-hitter the pitch-count goes out the door. As a manager you try to stay out of the way of those moments.”
MADDON, ROSS AND Arrieta himself said he didn’t have his top-shelf stuff, that he was off, “And all over the place,” said Ross, which was why his pitch count was so high. But he busied himself making the Cincinnati Reds play baseball’s version of ‘Go Fish.’
Ross, 39, announced before the season started that this would be his last season and he had never caught a no-hitter.
“This is amazing, amazing,” said Ross. “This was one of my dreams and that stud made it come true. I’m on Cloud Nine, I’m on the moon. As a catcher who prides himself on calling the game, that’s something I wanted to do. That animal was in control most of the time and he locked it in when he needed it.”
Ross, not noted for hefty bat work, had two hits, including a home run and said, “How about that? I have a big offensive night and I get overshadowed by a no-hitter.”
MADDON SEEMED ALMOST more proud and happy for Ross than he did for Arrieta. After all, Arrieta already had a no-hitter. Ross didn’t.
“You talk about pitching a no-hitter, but catching a no-hitter is very special, too,” he said. “That’s something he’ll be able to carry with him forever. He does a great job and had a great hitting day on top of it. That’s just, because this guy has always given everything he has to the pitcher when he is back there.”
Arrieta seemed to be the calmest man in the room after his accomplishment and said, “That’s a part of every pitcher’s mental makeup at this level — you have to expect certain things out of yourself.”
With his stuff moving so much, a lot of time out of the zone, he certainly didn’t expect to throw a no-hitter on this night — not until the sixth inning.
“I had shaky command of all my pitches, but I kept using them all and as the game got on I got a bit more comfortable,” he added. “I pitched to contact pretty well. My timing was off, from start to finish. I was able to lock it in on big situations an force some contact to get outs pretty quickly.” He needed only nine pitches in the seventh and nine pitches in the eighth.
Last year’s Cy Young Award winner is well on his way to winning the award for the second straight year, already 4-and-0 this season with a 0.87 earned run average and 16 straight scoreless innings over his last two starts.
Arrieta nearly threw a no-hitter at the Reds in September of 2014 in Wrigley Field. Brandon Phillips ruined it with a two-out double in the eighth inning. But Arrieta threw his first complete game, a one-hit 7-0 victory during which he walked only one and struck out 13.
BEFORE THE 30-YEAR-OLD right hander had to throw his first pitch Thursday he had a 2-0 lead and before he pitched the second inning he had a 4-0 lead. Giving Arrieta four runs that early is like giving a polar bear a fish and then trying to take it away from him. You’re going to lose some fingers
How good is this guy? You won’t find his picture next to ‘good’ in the dictionary. It is next to ‘great.’ He has now won his last 16 decisions and has pitched 24 straight quality starts.
Cincinnati starter Brandon Finnegan went 6 2/3 innings without giving up a hit last week in Chicago against the Cubs. This time he went 0 0/3 innings before giving up a hit.
Finnegan was the first player out of the Reds dugout and onto the field to start the game, but what was the rush? His first pitch of the game was ripped for a double by Dexter Fowler and two batters later Kris Bryant crushed a 420-foot home run.
Ben Zobrist opened the second inning with a home run into the right field bleachers, David Ross nuzzled an infield roller up the third base line for a hit, took third on Arrieta’s hit and scored on a ground ball.
SO ARRIETA HAD A 4-0 lead before he broke a sweat and he retired the first four Reds in a row on ground balls before he walked Jay Bruce.
Finnegan gave up a fifth run in the fourth inning and was soon no longer a participant after giving up five runs, seven hits, two homers and two walks among his 74 pitches in four innings.
OVER THE LAST FIVE innings the Reds bullpen gave up 11 runs and a11 hits, which places it under the, ‘That’s no news,’ category. The Cubs had 18 hits and the 16-0 no-hitter is the biggest score for a no-hitter since the Buffalo Bisons no-hit the Detroit Wolverines, 18-0, in 1884.
TIM Melville, recently removed from the rotation and plopped into the bullpen, replaced Finnegan and received a buzz haircut.
After giving up no runs and one hit in the fifth, Melville gave up four runs, two walks and four hits that included the home run by Ross and a three-run rip by Anthony Rizzo that made it 9-0.
Drew Hayes made his major-league debut in the seventh and cortisone shots are less painful. He loaded the bases and Kris Bryant unloaded them, his third career grand slam and his sixth RBI of the game. Bryant has four home runs this year, all against the Reds.
MEANWHILE, disabled pitcher Homer Bailey made his first of three projected minor league starts in Louisville Thursday night. He pitched 3 2/3 innings (67 pitches) and gave up two runs and three hits while walking two and striking out six.