When Jake Arrieta stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning, a fan in the upper deck tried to start an MVP! MVP! chant. After a couple attempts, the fan gave up and presumably went back to watching the game.
Based on what Arrieta’s been doing, that fan might not have been too far off. Manager Joe Maddon would agree.
“Where we’re at right now, absolutely he’s got to be in that conversation too,” Maddon said. “To prevent any kind of long losing streak… what he’s done in his second half I guess is unparalleled.”
That “unparalleled” dominance continued Sunday.
Arrieta threw seven scoreless innings, took a perfect game into the seventh, struck out nine and added his second home run of the season to give the Cubs a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Arrieta (21-6) lowered his overall earned-run average to 1.82, his second-half ERA to what would be a baseball-record 0.80, and built on a host of other numbers that would strengthen his case for a Cy Young award.
And maybe an MVP.
“Nobody’s ever seen it. I can’t say I’ve never seen it. Nobody’s ever seen what he’s doing right now,” Maddon said. “To have the venue of Sunday Night Baseball twice, he gave up one hit in 16 innings against two really good teams, what does that mean?
“There’s a lot there that I think voters have to really consider when they look at this fellow.”
As Maddon alluded to, Arrieta was back on Sunday Night Baseball after his Aug. 30 no-hitter against the Dodgers in Los Angeles when his national profile jumped to another level. He threatened to at least match that Sunday, throwing six perfect innings before Gregory Polanco led off the seventh with a single.
That performance helped the Cubs salvage the final game of the series and also claim their 90th victory of the season. Arrieta also became the first Cubs pitcher to win more than 20 games since Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins went 24-13 in 1971, something that will stick in voters’ minds after the season whether they cast ballots for the Cy Young or MVP.
Arrieta said he and his wife have talked about a possible Cy Young award or MVP and the “excitement” that comes with those honors but it’s “pretty short-lived for the moment.”
“We’ve got a lot on our plate. Some big tasks at hand,” Arrieta said. “I think those deserve a little bit more focus than some other things. I just think that the end of the season will bring about the emotions that go along with those sort of moments.”
He had a chance for one more historic moment but Polanco’s single – Pittsburgh’s only hit – ended that. And after getting out of the inning with only 84 pitches, Arrieta’s night was over with Maddon looking ahead to the playoffs and trying to keep his ace fresh for bigger games with more at stake.
But in echoing something he said earlier Sunday, Maddon wasn’t going to halt Arrieta’s attempt at another no-hitter or perfect game.
“If he wanted to earn that no-hitter let him go ahead and do it,” Maddon said. “Like I said before the game, I don’t want to stand in the way of anybody’s greatness.”