BOSTON — After silencing the Red Sox and their fans for 72/3 innings Monday night, Jake Arrieta received the ultimate compliment at sold-out Fenway Park after falling short in his bid for a no-hitter.
A standing ovation.
Arrieta came within four outs in his latest no-hit bid before Steven Drew hit Arrieta’s career-high 120th and final pitch for a clean single to right field.
That barely put a dent in Arrieta’s latest achievement — a 2-0 victory that capped a remarkable June and a terrific two months since he came off the disabled list because of shoulder stiffness.
“Something like that in Fenway is rare,” Arrieta said of the ovation from the opposing but appreciative fans. “I got some goose bumps there, and that’s why you play the game — for moments like that.”
From Cubs executives who returned to the venue of their two World Series titles to Cubs fans who have braced themselves for the potential departures of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel while waiting patiently for a new wave of top prospects, Arrieta’s performance lent more hope for the future.
Since coming off the DL, Arrieta is 5-1 with a 1.81 ERA in 11 starts. More impressive, he posted a 4-0 record and 0.92 ERA in six starts in June and has struck out 39 in his last 282/3 innings.
Monday’s performance was Arrieta’s first since he threw six perfect innings before allowing two runs on three hits in the seventh in a 7-3 win over the Reds on June 24. Although Arrieta walked Mike Napoli with one out in the fifth Monday, he possessed better command of his fastball, cut fastball, slider and changeup while showing more confidence in the latter pitch by throwing it while behind on the count in the late innings.
This appears to be a culmination of the qualities Arrieta displayed when the Orioles named him their opening-day starter in 2013.
“He’s pitched his way into that company, with the strikeouts and the batting average against,” said pitching coach Chris Bosio, who was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Red Sox (on April 22, 1993 in Seattle).
Arrieta’s only issue was his high pitch count, though it appeared he was going to stay in the game until he lost his no-hit bid.
“His delivery is spot-on and made some great pitches and was very methodical in his approach to every hitter,” manager Rick Renteria said.
Since joining the Cubs on July 2, 2013, Arrieta is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 20 starts.
“As a player and person, I feel like I’ve grown so much in all areas,” said Arrieta, who was 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 69 games with the Orioles from 2010-13. “When I started playing this game, I was still a kid. Now I feel like I’m a young man who is continuing to learn and grow as a dad, husband, player and teammate.
“Those are very important aspects of this game. I feel that, combined with a pretty good work ethic and routine, are the results I can tend to have from game to game.”
Despite his two months of success, Arrieta wouldn’t be goaded into thinking he had a late shot at making the National League All-Star team.
“My wife threw that out there a few days ago,” Arrieta said. “I try not to think about it too much because if I did, I’d get overly excited about it. And if it doesn’t happen, maybe it’s a little disappointing. It’s something I’ve dreamed of but never expected to happen.”
And neither did Renteria expect an ovation from the Fenway fans after he pulled Arrieta.
“We were all gathered at the mound and said, ‘Look at this.’ ” Renteria said. ” ‘This is some kind of awesome.’ I tip my cap to everybody because that was some show of respect. That was awesome.”