The Red Sox came within four outs of being no-hit Monday night, falling 2-0 to a dominant Jake Arrieta and the Cubs in Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have given us plenty of opportunities to be frustrated with their inability to score this season, and you might think tonight was a grand example of that. Two-hit by Jake Arrieta? Losing 2-0 to the Cubs? This reads like a thesis in terrible offense.
Really, though, this is not one of those times. The Jake Arrieta who has been pitching in Chicago this season is not the Jake Arrieta who was so bad for so long in Baltimore. His first 60-odd innings this season certainly suggested that, and anyone who watched that game and isn't a believer likely never will be. Blame the Red Sox all you want for struggling against Vidal Nuno and his ilk, but you can't blame them for struggling against a pitcher with a slider like the one Arrieta showed tonight.
I could wax poetic about Arrieta all night, but suffice it to say that the Red Sox took a long time to get so much as a man on base. The fifth inning, finally, brought a Mike Napoli walk, and then a rare bit of solid contact courtesy of Xander Bogaerts. The ball could not find the ground, however, and Stephen Drew struck out to end the inning.
Ultimately, though, Drew was the man who would break up Arrieta's bid for history. Still relentlessly attacking the bottom of the zone with two down in the eighth, Arrieta wasn't exactly punished for a mistake. Drew simply caught one of Arrieta's sliders as he tried to sneak it low across the zone to pick up strike three, cleaning it out for a line drive to right field. The stars really have to align for a great performance to become a historic one, and tonight they simply did not.
Frustratingly enough, this all came on a night when Jake Peavy actually managed to keep runs off the board. Still, it was against a Cubs team that has been even more inept at the plate than the Red Sox, and he still managed to surrender a homer in the process--a two-run bomb to Nate Schierholtz, who sports a .574 OPS even after tonight. Frankly, this was kind of more of the same from Peavy. It's just that the Cubs aren't necessarily capable of hitting bad pitching with any consistency. This at bat against Ryan Sweeney, filled with eminently hittable strikes and easy-to-take balls kind of tells the story.
If anything, the Red Sox should probably be glad they had their least reliable starting pitcher up against Arrieta. It might sting a little now that Peavy managed six innings of two-run ball, but the Red Sox still stand a better chance of winning this series than if they'd used up one of their better starters on a seemingly unwinnable game.
Let's ignore that the giant question mark Clay Buchholz is still waiting in the wings tomorrow. For all of our sakes.