Amid a remarkable stretch of dominance that now includes a second no-hitter over his last 11 regular-season starts, Jake Arrieta continues to remain confident and humble.
That won't change against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday, when Arrieta takes the mound after a rainout looking to extend his historic Wrigley Field scoreless-inning stretch while the Chicago Cubs try to win a franchise-record 18th straight start by the right-hander.
A day after becoming the third Cub to throw more than one no-hitter in last Thursday's 16-0 rout of Cincinnati, Arrieta (4-0, 0.87 ERA) admitted that he probably won't become the first pitcher since Johnny Vander Meer in 1938 to accomplish that feat in back-to-back outings.
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"I don't expect that," he said. "I try to be good, but that's a little much."
Then again, the way Arrieta has pitched since the end of June, anything seems possible.
"Every time he goes out there, he's got no-hit stuff," Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. "He's arguably the best pitcher in the game today."
Arrieta is 20-1 with an 0.86 ERA while recording 24 consecutive regular-season quality starts - a team record and the longest run since Bob Gibson went 26 straight in 1967-68. He's struck out 173, walked 33 and served up four homers while posting an 0.70 WHIP during that span.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has 15 wins in 17 starts - all Cubs victories - since he was on the mound July 25 when Cole Hamels no-hit the Cubs (15-5). A victory Thursday would equal the team mark for consecutive wins from a starter set by Rick Sutcliffe in 1984-85.
That loss opposite Hamels was also the last time Arrieta allowed a run in the regular season at Wrigley, where he's pitched 48 2/3 scoreless innings. It's the longest streak at the historic ballpark and the longest at any home field since Ray Herbert's 54 straight for the White Sox in 1962-63.
"It's crazy, man, what he's done," manager Joe Maddon said.
"He's kind of matter of fact, 'Yeah, I can do this, I believe it. I'm not here to brag at it, I know I can do this.' And he does it."
Arrieta also managed to stay calm and collected while addressing recent rumors from other major leaguers that he's used performance enhancing drugs to turn around a sagging career.
"I think it's funny because I've always been in good shape," the 30-year-old confirmed health nut said. "I just sucked early in my career."
Arrieta didn't allow a run in his last 18 innings while going 2-0 with an 0.86 ERA in three post-All-Star break starts against Milwaukee (8-12). He struck out 11 in a three-hit, 4-0 victory over the Brewers at Wrigley on Sept. 22.
Chicago beat Milwaukee 4-3 on Tuesday for their 13th win in 14 meetings, then Wednesday's contest was postponed by rain. Addison Russell delivered a go-ahead two-run triple in the seventh of Tuesday's win for the Cubs, who are off to their best 20-game start since 1907.
After batting .196 in his first 14 games, Russell is 5 for 13 with four RBIs in four contests. He is 3 for 4 against Taylor Jungmann (0-3, 8.47).
The right-hander allowed an earned run over five innings of his first start, but 15 in 12-plus to lose three straight. He yielded three runs and walked six in four-plus innings of last Thursday's 8-1 loss to Minnesota.
"He's got to throw strikes, and I think he's just really making it hard on himself," manager Craig Counsell said.
He went 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA against the Cubs last season.
Aaron Hill and Ryan Braun are a combined 11 for 27 with a homer each against Arrieta.