Jake Arrieta is eager to get back on the mound for the first time since throwing his first no-hitter.
He’ll try to become the majors’ first 18-game winner and capture his seventh straight start Saturday when he faces the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, who will start a pitcher winless in his last nine outings.
Arrieta (17-6, 2.11 ERA) struck out a season-high 12 with one walk in Sunday’s 2-0 victory at the Los Angeles Dodgers for his first no-hitter. He became the first Cubs pitcher since 1950 to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning three times in one season in 2014, and finally finished one off this year.
”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.”
The outing capped an August in which he won all six starts while posting a 0.43 ERA. The right-hander is second in the majors in ERA and opponent batting average (.195) to the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke, and is 11-1 with a 1.07 ERA in his last 14 outings.
"I’m just focused on Arizona and pitching against them, and then trying to win as many games as we can leading into the postseason to try to put ourselves in a good position," Arrieta told MLB’s official website.
Arrieta is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two career starts against the Diamondbacks, with Aaron Hill 7 for 17 against him and Jarrod Saltalamacchia 3 for 4 with two doubles.
The Cubs (76-57) will continue this three-game set when they face Robbie Ray (3-10, 3.72), who is 0-6 with a 5.40 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break. Ray allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings Monday in a 5-4 loss at Colorado in which the bullpen blew a three-run lead in the ninth to cost him the victory.
The left-hander has never faced Chicago, though he has seen Austin Jackson (1 for 5 against him), Chris Denorfia (3 for 3) and Dexter Fowler (2 for 3).
Arizona (65-70) expects to welcome back Paul Goldschmidt on Saturday after he missed the last two games while his wife gave birth. Goldschmidt, who has a 1.000 OPS with 97 RBIs, is 0 for 4 with two walks against Arrieta.
"Fly in and be ready to play (Saturday)," manager Chip Hale said. "I have not heard from him, so I’m assuming that’s what the plan is going to be. If he needs more time, he’ll let us know."
The Cubs will be without rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber for at least three days while he deals with a mild rib cage strain.
They didn’t miss him in a 14-5 rout Friday. Another rookie, Addison Russell, notched his first career two-homer effort and Anthony Rizzo drilled a grand slam, going deep for the second straight game in Chicago’s second-highest scoring effort of 2015.
”Hitting’s contagious," Russell said. "Everyone wants to get a knock. You just want to get the next one."
Former Chicago catcher Welington Castillo had a double in three at-bats in his return to Wrigley Field.