Jake Arrieta just threw his second no-hitter in his last 11 starts. There are tons of implications and storylines here, and we’ll have them covered very soon, but for now, let’s recap what was an amazing night in Cincinnati.
Top Play (WPA): In a stark contrast to the last time Brandon Finnegan started against the Cubs, it took exactly eight pitches for the top play to transpire on an overcast evening in Cincinnati. Further deviating from last Monday’s game, my feet were firmly planted on the ground—about 40,000 feet below where they were last week—and I did a much better job keeping my emotions in check as the eventual game-winning home run descended to the seats.
Dexter Fowler entered Great American Ballpark like a SWAT team, smacking Finnegan’s first offering off the wall like a rusty door. After striking out Jason Heyward, Finnegan placed this little nugget in Kris Bryant’s stocking:
In a show of brazen Krismas-in-April delight, Bryant crushed the offering just inside the left field foul pole and into the second deck, sending Reds fans scampering into the concourse for a souvenir (+.156). Seeing as Jake Arrieta was on the mound tonight with his mind on mustache onesies, this contest was in the books.
Bottom Play (WPA): Remember that Heyward strikeout in the first inning ? Yep, that was the most detrimental play to the Cubs this evening, and it cost them about four percentage points (-.041).
Key Moment: Jake Arrieta wasn’t perfect tonight. He didn’t have pinpoint command—he walked four batters. He seemed to be losing pitches up in the zone and beyond. His pitch count reached heights no one was excited to see. His stuff has been more dominant in the past—just six Reds struck out at his hand tonight. The Cubs didn’t need him to be Cy Young winner—Jake Freaking Arrieta tonight, but that had no bearing on what he would accomplish. As Eugenio Suarez’s popup settled into Heyward’s mitt, Jake Freaking Arrieta had his second career no-hitter, and I had the pleasure of writing the recap of a no-no for the second time in his last 11 starts.
I also feel like I should mention somewhere that Bryant hit a grand slam tonight:
Trend to Watch: It’s nothing new, but Arrieta once again steals the trend spotlight. That’s 24 consecutive quality starts, just two short of Bob Gibson’s seemingly untouchable record in the lowered-mound era. That’s 16 consecutive starts without recording a loss, with 14 wins in that time. It is, of course, his second career no-hitter. The list goes on and on. There are seemingly no limits to what the bearded-wonder can accomplish, and it’s our job to sit back and appreciate in awe. Be certain to fully enjoy this, friends; you’re witnessing a trend you may never see again.
What’s Next: A party in the Cubs clubhouse tonight and then game two of the four-game weekend set tomorrow. Jon Lester (2.21 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 8.3 K/9) squares off against Jon Moscot (4.76, 8.13, 3.2), in a matchup that would confound Wheel-of-Fortune contestants cheerfully asking Pat for an ‘h’. Lester looks to build upon an excellent outing last Sunday against Colorado, when he struck out ten batters despite suffering the loss. It’s only Moscot’s second career start, and he’ll need to summon an extra dose of courage before toeing the rubber after witnessing the offensive onslaught laid upon the Reds staff tonight. Game time is 6:10 CT.
Note from the Wrigleyville staff: You may (or may not) recognize that starting with this recap, we will be making a change in how we choose the top and bottom WPA play. Previously, we simply chose the most and least productive plays regardless of which team’s offense initiated the play. Beginning today, we will be viewing these sections purely from the perspective of the Cubs. This means that if Joey Votto draws a bases-loaded walk to drive in the winning run, this would likely go down as the bottom play, rather than the top play as it would have previously. Why, you may ask? Simple: we prefer viewing everything from the Cubs’ perspective! Feel free to drop a comment below if you have any questions regarding this change.
Lead photo courtesy David Kohl—USA Today Sports