Cubs' Arrieta masterful again in near-no-hitter

If there's been one revelation on the Cubs this season, it's Jake Arrieta.

Hitting prospects Jorge Soler and Javier Baez have provided the “oohs,” “aahs” and “oomph” with their power.

Arrieta has been the flip side to that coin, shutting opposing hitters down time after time. He was at again Tuesday night in a 7-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

For at least the third time this season, Arrieta looked like he had the stuff for a no-hitter. Brandon Phillips broke up the bid with one out in the eighth on a double to the gap in left-center field. Cubs center fielder Matt Szczur made a diving attempt, but the ball just got past him.

Arrieta had a no-hitter until two outs in the eighth inning at Boston on June 30. On June 24 at Wrigley, the Reds' Billy Hamilton broke up Arrieta's no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the seventh.

“I was able to kind of slow the game down a little bit more in this type of situation, having couple of situations similar to this, one at home, one at Fenway,” said Arrieta, who tossed the Cubs' first complete game of the year and struck out a career-high 13 in the 1-hitter. “So, yeah, I tried to really put it in the back of my mind. Everyone knows what's going on.

“It's an exciting night. It was a lot of fun. It will be one I remember for a long time.”

The speedy Szczur thought he had a shot at catching Phillips' double.

“I was going to do anything to try and save that,” he said. “It's no different if he had given up 4 or 5 hits, I'd have done the same thing. It was close. We watched it on the replay, and I was about four inches off. I was planning on running through the wall if I had to.”

Arrieta is 9-5 with a 2.65 ERA, and he became the No. 1 starter after the July 4 trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. More remarkable, Arrieta was a question mark from the get-go as he reported to spring training with a shoulder ailment and spent the first month of the season on the disabled list.

“Me seeing him for the first time as a component of the team, he's turned a big corner,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's worked very, very hard to maintain himself, and he's grown a lot. His maturity has definitely improved. I think now he's got the trust in his stuff, and he uses it.”

The Cubs are 67-84 as they surpassed last year's victory total. They'd like to add more pitching this off-season to go with Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and others. Either way, Arrieta sees good things ahead.

“We're right there,” he said. “I think it's obvious for guys in the clubhouse. I think a lot of the young guys know there are adjustments that have to be made moving forward, which is part of it. The transition from Triple-A to the big leagues is the biggest jump in all of sports.

“I think things are magnified once guys get here for the first time, but that's kind of the way it goes. You're going to take your lumps … With the ability we have, the talent, it's going to pan out.”

• First baseman Anthony Rizzo got Tuesday off after hitting a walk-off homer Monday. Rizzo missed 18 games with a back ailment, and the Cubs want to ease him in. … Center fielder Arismendy Alcantara had an MRI on his right wrist, one day after crashing into the wall making a catch. Full results weren't known, but Renteria said Alcantara had only soreness … First-round draft pick Kyle Schwarber took batting practice with the Cubs.

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