Jake Arrieta was deemed the National League's best pitcher last year, capturing the Cy Young Award despite sensational -- not to mention historic -- seasons fromZack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. And on Monday night, in the first game of the 2016 season, the Angels found out why.
Arrieta easily carved his way through their lineup with seven masterful innings, allowing only three baserunners while outdueling Garrett Richards, leading his Cubs to a 9-0 victory and spoiling Opening Day for a sold-out Angel Stadium crowd.
"We set the tone very nicely for ourselves," said Arrieta, who threw a no-hitter the last time he pitched in Southern California, on Aug. 30, 2015, at Dodger Stadium.
"Jake Arrieta is a legitimate No. 1," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He showed it last year, and he picked it up this year again. We didn't get too many looks at him."
Arrieta gave up only two hits, walked a batter, struck out six and needed just 89 pitches to record 21 outs. From the start of the third to the end of the sixth, he didn't allow a ball out of the infield. He faced two over the minimum, never once pitched with a runner in scoring position and struck out Mike Trout twice. He was just as dominant as he was throughout 2015, a season that saw him win 22 games, post a 1.77 ERA and give up a Major League-low 5.9 hits per nine innings.
Speaking days before Opening Day, Arrieta said it's "probably not realistic" to expect him to repeat those numbers in 2016.
"But they're going to be good," Arrieta said. "I know that."
He's off to a good start.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED You go, we go:Dexter Fowler showed how valuable he is at the top of the Cubs order when he doubled to lead off the game, and scored two outs later on Anthony Rizzo's single. Fowler finished 3-for-4 and also drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, scoring three runs. Before Fowler rejoined the Cubs, Jason Heyward was projected as a potential lead-off man.Before each at-bat, manager Joe Maddon gave Fowler the same message he did last year, "You go, we go." More >
Patience at the plate: The Cubs led the NL in pitches per plate appearance last season, and picked up where they left off in the fourth inning. Rizzo and Kris Bryant both walked, moved up on Kyle Schwarber's groundout and then Jorge Soler and Miguel Montero hit back-to-back RBI singles. The Cubs made Richards work; five of the seven batters that inning worked their at-bats to three-ball counts.
"I threw some really good pitches that they fouled off," Richards said. "They had long at-bats. That got my pitch count up, which got me out of the game early."
The little things: Richards had several opportunities to escape that gamebreaking fourth inning with minimal damage, some of which was out of his control. With one on and none out, he had Bryant behind, 0-2, then barely missed on an outside-corner fastball and threw three more balls. Schwarber hit a hard grounder that could've been a double play, but first baseman C.J. Cron bobbled it initially and settled for an out at first. Soler's hit was a grounder to the left side that went against the shift. More >
Shoddy bullpen work: It was only a three-run game when Richards exited after five innings, his pitch count already at 97. But Salas served up a two-run homer to Montero in the sixth,Cam Bedrosian gave up another run in a long seventh inning and Cory Rasmussurrendered a two-out, three-run double in the ninth to reserve outfielder Matt Szczur, whose alma mater, Villanova, had just won the NCAA Tournament.
QUOTABLE "We had a good spring; we can't bury our heads. We have a game tomorrow. We'll come in with a positive attitude, positive mind, and turn the page." -- Trout, on not letting a lopsided loss affect his team
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Arrieta extended his streak of consecutive quality starts with at least four strikeouts to 21, which ties Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez and Bob Gibson for the longest such streak in the Major Leagues since 1920.
The Angels had never lost by more than seven runs on Opening Day. The last time they lost by seven, though, was 2014, when they finished with 98 wins. Monday also marked their first time being shut out on Opening Day since 2002 -- the year they won the World Series.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Jon Lester will make his season debut on Tuesday in the series finale of this brief Interleague meeting. Lester has a career 4-4 record and 3.93 ERA in 11 starts against the Angels. He'll be paired with catcher David Ross, who is retiring after this year. First pitch will be 9:05 p.m. CT.
Angels: Fellow lefty Andrew Heaney opposes Lester, looking to build on a solid rookie season that saw him post a 3.49 ERA in 105 2/3 innings. Heaney was named the No. 2 starter out of default, because Tyler Skaggs, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver weren't ready by Opening Day. But he had a 2.25 ERA in five Spring Training starts.