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Jake Arrieta's first no-hitter might not be his last

LOS ANGELES -- For anyone who has seen or been around Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta over the past two seasons, the question was always when would he throw a no-hitter, not if.

It turned out to be Sunday night in a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This wasn’t one of those come-out-of-nowhere special nights. This was a man on a mission who has taken his game to the highest of levels since being acquired in a lopsided trade with the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, 2013. His win Sunday made him 6-0 in August with a minuscule 0.43 ERA.

“Everyone made me feel extremely welcome and the comfort level was there from the get-go,” Arrieta said of becoming a Cub. “I started doing things I knew I was capable of doing to help me be more consistent. The momentum continued to roll throughout the remainder of 2013 and 2014, and then this year.”

Arrieta’s diet and workout routine are well-documented going back to his college days at TCU. But everything didn’t click until he came to the Cubs. His devastating array of pitches finally matched up with the mental and physical parts of the game. The result is a complete pitcher with no-hitter stuff not just once in a while but nearly every five days.

“He had it going,” catcher Miguel Montero said after the game. “He was Jake. Impressive every time he goes out. Every time he goes out he’s like Felix Hernandez. He has a chance to throw a no-hitter.

“He’s worked his butt off. He works as hard as anyone in the game. That’s his reward right there.”

Things started to get interesting Sunday not long after a hard-hit ball by Enrique Hernandez to second baseman Starlin Castro was ruled an error in the bottom of the third inning.

“I’m more [than] happy to take an error,” Castro said. “If they call it a hit, I’d tell them to switch. ... [The Dodgers] had no chance today. That’s every day. He never looks tired. Every time, he’s nasty.”

Arrieta lost his perfect game on the play but kept rolling through the Dodgers' lineup. And he got stronger -- just as he has this season. A career high in innings pitched (183) hasn't slowed him, nor has the pressure of a pennant race. It's as if he's operating on a different level right now.

“My pregame side was one of the worst I’ve had in a long time,” Arrieta said. “But as I’ve matured and gotten a little older I’ve developed an understanding what happens in the pregame doesn’t dictate anything leading into the game.”

Soon, the buzz in the dugout, according to several players, became noticeable -- though some in the bullpen apparently didn’t realize Arrieta had something special going. They found out soon enough when he struck out the side in the ninth with stuff as dominating as it was in the first.

“I was asking a couple guys afterward, 'How did I get the last three outs?'" Arrieta said. “It’s just one of those things that everything happened so fast. You have a hard time replaying how the outs are made.”

As serious a pitcher as he has become on the field, Arrieta plays for a manager who won’t let his players take themselves too seriously off it. The Cubs are headed home after a weeklong West Coast swing, and with an overnight flight ahead of them, Joe Maddon asked Arrieta and his teammates to wear their favorite pajamas for the trip.

So Arrieta walked into his postgame news conference after the greatest performance of his career not in a suit and tie, but wearing a onesie with little mustaches on them. Maybe it was a nod to his now trademark thick beard, but Arrieta claims he simply likes the pajamas. Either way, Arrieta’s performance and attire capped a memorable night and placed him squarely at the top of the Cy Young race in the National League.

“This guy has put in a lot of hard work,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “Knowing Jake, he’s going to enjoy this, but in Day 2 he’s going to get ready for his next start.”

That’s the scary thing. This could just be the beginning for the Cubs right-hander. That’s why you’ll hear this night described as Arrieta's first no-hitter. It might not be his last.

“Everyone that plays this game wants to accomplish great things and pitch at a high level,” he said. “It’s something I wanted for a long time. Everything aligned tonight and was able to get it done.”