After coming so close, Arrieta notches his 1st no-hitter

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(AP) — Jake Arrieta had been building toward this moment. He’d come achingly close to holding opponents hitless three times last year in a breakout season with the Chicago Cubs.

Finally, it happened. And near Hollywood, no less.

Arrieta threw the second no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 days, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 victory Sunday night.

He struck out a season-high 12 and walked one, becoming just the third opposing pitcher to achieve a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium.

“He’s starting to create more buzz around him,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “To do it under these circumstances, in this ballpark, against this team, with a pretty good audience, that should pretty much put him on everybody’s radar.”

With 46,679 in attendance — including his wife and two kids — and a national television audience looking in, Arrieta became the first 17-game winner in the majors this season by throwing the 14th no-hitter in Cubs history.

“It’s something that everybody wants,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ve been close on a couple of occasions, and tonight I was just fortunate that everything aligned right.”

Last year, Arrieta (17-6) became the first Cubs pitcher since 1950 to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning three times in one season. He tossed a one-hit shutout against Cincinnati last Sept. 16 at Wrigley Feld, allowing his first hit to Brandon Phillips with one out in the eighth.

Arrieta had a then career-high 10 wins last season after going 4-2 in nine starts for the Cubs in 2013, when he was acquired from Baltimore that July.

At 29, he’s blossoming a little later than some big league pitchers.

“Right now, he’s pitching at a different level, and he deserves it,” Maddon said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody work any harder. He has come a long way from Baltimore, where he really had command issues with the fastball but always had good stuff.”

Arrieta sensed his time was ending with the Orioles, who had drafted him in 2007 out of Texas Christian and called him up to the majors in 2010. He quickly found a home with the Cubs, who embraced the low-key Texan.

“The comfort level was there from the get-go, so it was a seamless transition,” he said. “I came over here and started doing some things I knew I was capable of doing to help me be more consistent. The momentum just continued to roll.”

Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the first gave Arrieta a quick boost, and all the offense he would need.

The right-hander was sharp early against the Dodgers, retiring the first seven batters he faced before he got some help toward his no-hitter from the official scorer.

Jerry White charged Starlin Castro with an error when Kike Hernandez reached on a one-hopper hit right at the second baseman in the third, although several players on both sides believed it should have been ruled a hit.

Arrieta thought so, too.

“He hit it pretty well. I think (the call) could have gone either way,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that it was an error until I think an inning or two later. It was kind of out of sight, out of mind. But even if it was a hit, I would have kept the same mindset.”

White gave the error after Castro tried to make the play on an in-between hop. The ball bounced off him and rolled away, allowing Hernandez to reach first.

“The ball was hit right at him and he didn’t have to move to make the play,” White said. “I had no thought even at the time to change it.”

Arrieta was undeterred, despite a two-out walk in the sixth to Jimmy Rollins. Arrieta finished strongly, striking out the side in the ninth, when Maddon thought it was a little too quiet in the dugout.

“There was a respectful buzz. Nobody was too loud,” the manager said. “Our guys are really a closely knit group.”

In the Dodgers’ dugout, starter Alex Wood, a 24-year-old with two years in the majors, studied Arrieta.

“He’s ahead of almost every hitter,” Wood said. “When you get a guy like that who’s pumping strikes and has all three of his pitches working well, it’s a tough situation.”

Making history proved a fitting ending to August for Arrieta, who was 6-0 with a 0.43 ERA in the month, allowing just two earned runs in 42 1-3 innings. He’s 11-1 on the road with a 1.76 ERA in 15 starts away from Wrigley Field.

“For those of us who are around Jake all the time, it’s not surprising at all,” Maddon said. “It’s a combination of Jake’s skill, his drive and who he is.”

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