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Arrieta throws second no-hitter as Cubs beat Reds 16-0

CINCINNATI – After Jake Arrieta’s second start of the season, a writer joked that if he kept it up, he might win 30 of his 33 starts this year.

“Why not 33?” Arrieta said flatly, leaving just enough room to doubt whether he was kidding.

Then he goes out on a soggy night in Cincinnati and does what he did Thursday – throwing a second no-hitter in 11 regular-season starts – and you start to wonder just how far-fetched any of it is.

The National League’s reigning Cy Young winner struggled with command in the early innings but finished stronger than he started to dominate the Reds during a 16-0 victory at Great American Ballpark and become the first pitcher in franchise history with no-hitters in consecutive seasons.

“That’s why he won the Cy Young last year. He’s got the capability of doing that every night out,” said catcher David Ross, who had a key pickoff after a fourth-inning walk. “I think mentally he expects to do that. He’s not shocked when he does stuff like that.”

Arrieta, who no-hit the Dodgers in Los Angeles eight months ago, is the third Cubs pitcher with multiple no-hitters, the first since Ken Holtzman had two in the 1970s. The other, Larry Corcoran, had three in the 1880s.

“Part of every pitcher’s mental makeup at this level is you have to expect certain things out of yourself,” said Arrieta, whose Pilates and yoga regimens are the stuff of clubhouse legend. “The preparation is what allows the success to happen naturally, and even though you can’t dictate the results, you can play a big part in the way certain things unfold. That’s why I feel like I have a good chance to win every time I take the mound.”

The right-hander walked four but faced only two over the minimum, thanks to Ross’s pickoff and a 6-4-3 double play to end the sixth. He struck out six.

Despite a pitch count at 85 through six innings, manager Joe Maddon said he had no intention of pulling Arrieta from the game with the no-hitter intact at any point – a policy set during spring training.

“You never want to interfere with somebody’s greatness,” Maddon said. “And that’s really special for him and for the organization to have another no-hitter being thrown. As a manager you try to stay out of the way of those moments.”

Arrieta made it easy by needing just nine pitches each for the seventh and eighth innings.

“It feels different the second time,” Arrieta said. “I was a little more relaxed as the game progressed.”

What’s next? He already set major-league records with his final two months (0.41 ERA), his second half (0.75) and final 20 starts (0.86) of last season.

Add this year’s four-game start to his season, and over his last 24 regular-season starts, he’s 20-1 with a 0.86 ERA (178 innings).

Over his last 16: 15-0 with a 0.53 ERA (119 1/3 innings).

“It didn’t even look like he had his best stuff today, and he goes out there and throws a no-hitter,” said third baseman Kris Bryant, who made several key defensive plays and added two homers and six RBIs to the scoring. “He’s just the best pitcher I’ve seen.”

Despite the command issues, the closest the Reds came to a hit off Arrieta were a pair of sharp grounders in the third and fourth innings.

Zack Cozart drove a bouncer behind the bag at third that Bryant gloved and threw on a two-hopper from foul territory to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who caught it with a backhand sweep to get Cozart by a half-step to end the third.

“It was a great play on KB’s part,” Rizzo said. “I always tell the guys I can handle it in the ground. He did a really nice job of that.”

Then in the fourth, Rizzo dove to his right to rob Joey Votto of a hit through the hole, jumping to his feet to deliver a toss to Arrieta for the out – a play Rizzo said wouldn’t have been possible if Ross hadn’t just picked off the runner at first. Rizzo would have been at the bag holding the runner.

By then Rizzo knew the no-no was possible. “I know it’s only the fourth, but I know when Jake goes through the lineup the first time he’s very capable of doing that every time,” he said. “So there’s just a little extra pep in your step.”

Until Thursday, the Reds had gone the longest of any major league team without being no-hit – a regular-season streak of 7,109 games. The last time the Reds were no-hit before Thursday was June 23, 1971, by Philadelphia’s Rick Wise.

The Reds also were no-hit by Roy Hallday during eh 2010 playoffs.

Arrieta’s last loss came at the hands of the Phillies’ Cole Hamels last July – a no-hitter by Hamels at Wrigley Field that snapped what was then the longest streak in the majors (7,920).

“You’re always shocked when something like that happens,” said center fielder Dexter Fowler, who was on base five of the six times he batted and recorded three of the last six outs Thursday. “But from my point of view, we always expect that from Jake.”

Arrieta, by the way, also is off to the first 4-0 of his career, with an 0.87 ERA, and he’ll take a scoreless streak of 18 2/3 innings into his next start.

“What can I say, man?” said Maddon. “I mean, he was spectacular.”