Even when he allows a few hits, Jake Arrieta might be baseball’s most dominant pitcher right now.
Arrieta pitched eight innings of four-hit ball for his major league-best 18th win, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0 on Saturday.
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Arrieta struck out seven in his first start since throwing his first career no-hitter against the Dodgers last Sunday. It was the seventh consecutive victory for the right-hander, who has allowed just two earned runs in 50 1/3 innings during his win streak.
Arrieta (18-6) allowed two hits in the first, but struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the inning. Hector Rondon yielded two hits in the ninth before finishing for his 26th save in 30 chances.
Just where does Arrieta rank?
"It’s as good as you’re going to get on a major-league level," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The quality of pitches, the durability, the guy that absolutely takes care of himself.
"I know there are other really good pitchers in this league, we just faced some of them, but he’s right with them."
Against Arizona, Arrieta added new wrinkles that made him more effective as the game went on.
"I started to mix some things up a little differently," Arrieta said. "I used some different sequences. I used the changeup quite a bit."
Arizona wasted a solid start by Robbie Ray in its third consecutive loss. Paul Goldschmidt had two hits in his return to the lineup after missing two games to be with his wife, Amy, in Phoenix as she gave birth to their first child.
Ray (3-11) struck out eight in five innings. The left-hander allowed two runs and four hits, but dropped to 0-7 with a 5.23 ERA in 10 starts since his last victory on July 7.
"Robbie did a good job of keeping us there," Arizona manager Chip Hale said. "And the bullpen did a really good job of holding them down. It’s a step in the right direction."
But Arrieta was just too much.
"Very good, probably the most dominant guy we’ve faced all year," Hale said.
David Ross drove in a run with a bases-loaded groundout in the fourth, and Dexter Fowler drove Ray’s first pitch of the fifth over the wall in left for his career-high 16th homer.
Arrieta’s no-hitter included a season-high 12 strikeouts and was the sixth in the majors this year. In a breakout season last year, he became the first Cubs pitcher since 1950 to pitch no-hit ball into the seventh inning three times in one season.
He retired 16 in a row in one stretch on Saturday, with Saltalamacchia breaking up the string with a two-out double in the seventh.
Diamondbacks: Goldschmidt, who leads Arizona with a .324 batting average, 27 homers and 97 RBI, said his wife and son, Jake, were doing well. … Manager Chip Hale had hoped 2B Aaron Hill would be back in the starting lineup after leaving Tuesday’s game with a hamstring pull, but Brandon Drury started at second with Hill available off the bench.
Cubs: Manager Joe Maddon said that rookie OF/C Kyle Schwarber, out with a mild rib cage strain, probably will not be available for the Cubs’ three-game series in St. Louis that opens on Monday. Schwarber said Friday he hoped to play against the Cardinals. … INF Starlin Castro, who lost his job as the everyday shortstop in early August, started at second base.
Arizona RHP Rubby De La Rosa (12-6, 4.46 ERA) faces Chicago RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-6. 4.15 ERA) in the series finale on Sunday. De La Rosa has won six of his past seven decisions. Hendricks, who makes his first career start versus the Diamondbacks, has a loss and three no-decisions in his last four starts and hasn’t won since Aug. 8.
STAYING ON TOP
The Cubs entered Saturday’s game with a 7 1/2 game lead for the second wild card. Maddon wants them to "live in the moment" and not get caught up watching the standings. "A bunch of one-game winning streaks would be kind of nice right now," he said.