BOSTON — Jim Bunning will remain a trivia answer for at least one more day.
Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta made a bid Monday to become the first pitcher to no-hit the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park since Bunning accomplished the feat back in 1958. Arrieta fell four outs shy, but the Red Sox couldn’t help but tip their cap following a 2-0 loss.
“Their guy was really, really good,” catcher David Ross said. “That’s one of the better pitchers that I’ve faced this year.”
Arrieta entered Monday’s game on a roll. The right-hander owned a 3-0 record and 1.14 ERA (four earned runs in 31 2/3 innings) over his last five starts, during which he struck out at least nine on three occasions. The Red Sox knew it was going to be difficult to score runs, and Arrieta was even better than advertised.
“We were well-aware of his abilities (and) the type of pitches that he does have,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But when you combine the three-pitch mix with the command, there’s a reason he’s been on a roll as he has. It came together for him here tonight as well.”
Arrieta breezed through the first 7 2/3 innings. He located his fastball, featured a devastating cutter with exceptional depth and consistently kept hitters off balance with an effective breaking ball. It seemed like a no-hitter was inevitable, especially with Arrieta working against the bottom of the Red Sox’s order in the eighth inning.
Stephen Drew ended Arrieta’s quest to dethrone Bunning from trivia lore. The Red Sox shortstop, who entered the game hitting all of .133, poked Arrieta’s 120th and final pitch into right field to end the no-hit bit with two outs in the eighth. The Fenway Park crowd — featuring plenty of Cubs fans — gave Arrieta a standing ovation to acknowledge the impressive performance.
Arrieta, who spent three-plus seasons with the Baltimore Orioles before being dealt to the Cubs last July, had faced the Red Sox six times before Monday. He was 0-3 with a 5.90 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Clearly, the 28-year-old — owner of a 5.46 ERA in 69 appearances (63 starts) during his time with Baltimore — has come a long way. Arrieta struck out 10, walked one and lowered his season ERA to 1.81.
“To me — I can only speak for my at-bats — he’s a really good pitcher,” Ross said. “There’s a reason why he’s got a low ERA. I think he’s figured some things out. I faced him before and he’s definitely improved.”
Arrieta has been the subject of trade rumors of late, so it’s reasonable to think his current stretch has increased his value. The Red Sox probably are hoping he doesn’t land back in the American League if he’s dealt, as Monday’s performance was nothing short special.
“We just ran into a guy that was on his game,” Dustin Pedroia said. “He was really good. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat, come out tomorrow and play well.”