Arrieta was lights-out on the mound, striking out a season-high 12. He looked ready for lights out afterward, slipping into one-piece pajamas decorated with moustaches for the overnight flight home.
Fitting, since the 29-year-old right-hander had thought about throwing a no-hitter since he was a kid. His grandfather witnessed one of Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters in Texas.
“You see other guys around the league do it and you want to be a part of something like that,” Arrieta said. “So it’s not only special for me and my family and friends, but for the organization and my teammates. They embraced me after the game, and it was extremely special to see how excited they were for what I was able to do.”
The kiddie attire was suggested before the game by manager Joe Maddon, one of his colorful apparel themes to build team unity. The Cubs embraced the goofiness an hour after the final out, coming onto the Dodger Stadium field in their brightly colored PJs to pose for photos.
Arrieta tossed the sixth no-hitter in the majors this season with the benefit of a close call by official scorer Jerry White. He charged Starlin Castro with a third-inning error when Kike Hernandez reached on a one-hopper hit right at the second baseman, although several players on both sides believed it should have been ruled a hit.
Arrieta thought so, too.
“He hit it pretty well. I think (the call) could have gone either way,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that it was an error until I think an inning or two later. It was kind of out of sight, out of mind. But even if it was a hit, I would have kept the same mindset.”
White gave Castro an error after he tried to make the play on an in-between hop. The ball bounced off him and rolled away, allowing Hernandez to reach first.
“If he stays down on the ball, he makes the play,” White said. “He came up thinking the ball was coming up. The ball was hit right at him and he didn’t have to move to make the play.”
White saw the play four times live, on a TV replay in the press box and twice in slow motion in the television video room.
“I had no thought even at the time to change it,” he said.
Hernandez was sacrificed to second before Arrieta struck out Jimmy Rollins to end the inning.
“It should have been a hit,” Hernandez said. “I knew if we didn’t get another hit they weren’t going to change it. He overmatched us tonight and they gave him the benefit of the doubt.”
Arrieta (17-6) walked one and became the first 17-game winner in the big leagues by throwing baseball’s third no-hitter in less than three weeks.
“He has that kind of stuff nightly,” Maddon said. “It’s really crazy. The ball looks like a whiffle ball from the side. You can see the break on the slider and the curveball. Right now he’s pitching at a different level.”
Mike Fiers blanked the NL West leaders 3-0 on Aug. 21 in Houston. Never before had Los Angeles been no-hit twice in one season.
“The last one bothered me more,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I thought we got out of the strike zone and weren’t ready to play. Tonight didn’t look anything like Houston.”
Carl Crawford nearly broke up the no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh, but Castro caught Crawford’s line drive up the middle with a running grab.
As the Dodger Stadium crowd roared, Arrieta struck out all three batters in the ninth: Justin Turner, Rollins and Chase Utley. Those were the same three hitters, in a different order, that Fiers retired to finish his gem.
With his 116th pitch, Arrieta fanned Utley on a breaking ball to end it. The pitcher was mobbed by teammates near the mound, and they jumped their way in a huddle over to near the Cubs’ dugout where they high-fived Arrieta.
“I was asking Dan Haren and a couple of the guys in the clubhouse, ‘How did I get the last three outs?'” Arrieta said. “Everything happens so fast. After the Utley strikeout, it was just a little relief and excitement, waiting for my teammates to mob me and waiting for the Gatorade bath. That was a great feeling.”
Arrieta tossed the 14th no-hitter in team history and became the first Cubs pitcher to throw one since Carlos Zambrano on Sept. 14, 2008, against Houston in a game that was moved to Milwaukee because of Hurricane Ike.
Arrieta helped the Cubs snap a four-game skid on the last night of their six-game West Coast trip. He finished August with a 6-0 record, tying Boston’s Joe Kelly as the only pitchers with that many wins in the month.
The right-hander lowered his ERA to 0.43 in August while becoming the first Cubs pitcher with that many wins in the month since Rick Sutcliffe in 1984.
Kris Bryant hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Alex Wood. The Cubs had 13 hits and stopped the Dodgers’ five-game winning streak.
Wood (9-9) gave up eight hits in six innings. The left-hander struck out seven and walked one.
Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners pitched a no-hitter Aug. 12 against Baltimore. Cole Hamels of Philadelphia, San Francisco rookie Chris Heston and Washington ace Max Scherzer also have thrown no-hitters this season.
The major league record for most in a season since 1900 is seven, done in 1990, 1991 and 2012.
Arrieta had come close to making history before.
He threw a one-hit shutout against Cincinnati last Sept. 16 at Wrigley Feld, allowing his first hit to Brandon Phillips with one out in the eighth.
Last year, Arrieta became the first Cubs pitcher since 1950 to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning three times in one season. Two of those came in consecutive starts, making him the first to do so since Toronto’s Dave Stieb in June 1988.