It takes a lot to upstage Anthony Rizzo these days.
Jake Arrieta did that Tuesday night, and for a while it looked like he might do it in historic fashion.
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Arrieta, a 28-year-old right-hander, took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Billy Hamilton then hit the second pitch of the inning up the middle for a single.
The Reds got 2 more hits off Arrieta in the inning and scored twice to cut the Cubs' lead to 4-2. After some scary bullpen moments in the eighth, the Cubs added 3 runs in the bottom half to win 7-3, snapping a three-game losing streak.
Arrieta wound up pitching 7 innings, striking out nine while walking none and throwing 94 pitches. He took the mound after a 53-minute rain delay at the start.
He admitted he knew what was transpiring as the excitement built.
"I knew that's kind of what was going on from the get-go; most guys do in a situation like that," he said. "I wanted to continue to execute pitches and try and pitch deep into the game. That was the only thought. There were only a couple of thoughts going through my head. Nothing changes. It's just kind of the way things worked out for the first six innings."
Cincinnati starting pitcher Homer Bailey retired the first 11 Cubs he faced until Rizzo homered with two outs in the fourth inning. It was Rizzo's 17th home run and second in two nights against the Reds. The hot-hitting Rizzo added a single in the sixth and a double in the eighth.
He also knew what was going on.
"It's nerve-wracking," he said. "Especially a perfect game, you know you've got to be ready every pitch."
Arrieta began the season on the disabled list because of a shoulder ailment that bothered him from the beginning of spring training. He didn't make his first start until May 3.
Tuesday's victory ran his record to 4-1, and his ERA went from 1.98 to 2.05.
The Cubs obtained Arrieta last July 2 from Baltimore along with reliever Pedro Strop in a trade that sent pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles.
Arrieta always has had great stuff. It's just been a matter of harnessing it. He appears to be doing that this season.
"Actually, he's starting to command the strike zone a lot better," manager Rick Renteria said before the game. "His fastball has tremendous life. He's attacked with his breaking balls with great effectiveness, a hard, sharp break and tilt. I think his confidence every outing has gotten better."
About the only thing that was going to stop Arrieta in this game was a long bottom of the sixth inning, when he led off with a walk and had to run the bases, eventually scoring when Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
"I was pretty gassed there, unfortunately," he said. "Pretty humid night, long inning in the sixth, running the bases, which really isn't all that tough in itself. But couple that with being on the mound and having that long layoff adds a little bit to it."