By Jon Weisman
Jake Arrieta bent, and an inning later, the Cubs broke.
In his first start against the Dodgers since his August 30 no-hitter, Arrieta pitched seven more shutout innings. But he didn’t no-hit them (pop the champagne), and in fact, barely escaped the seventh inning after walking the bases loaded.
Once he was out of the game, the Dodgers struck, with a trio of singles from Chase Utley, Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez breaking a scoreless tie in the eighth — as well as ending 26 consecutive scoreless innings against Chicago dating back to last season — and propelling the Dodgers to a rain-delayed 5-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Dodgers not only answered the Cubs’ one-hitter Monday with one of their own (retiring the final 19 batters), they evened their record on their road trip against last year’s National League pennant finalists to 3-2, with two games to go. In those six games, Gonzalez (2 for 4) is 10 for 19 with two walks.
Howie Kendrick capped an eight-pitch at-bat with an opposite-field sacrifice fly for the Dodgers’ second run, and a three-run homer in the final inning by Corey Seager (3 for 5) — his team-leading ninth of the season — put the game all but out of reach.
While Arrieta came away with a no-decision, and in fact allowed only two more hits in this start against the Dodgers than he did in his last one, the loss nevertheless ended a 23-game Cubs winning streak in games their ace has started, which had tied a Major League record, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
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Though Gonzalez had the critical hit, much credit for the Dodger victory has to go to Scott Kazmir, Joe Blanton and Adam Liberatore, who blanked a team averaging 5.6 runs per game.
In his most recent start six days ago, Kazmir struck out 12 Reds in six innings, allowing one run. Tonight, he actually improved upon that outing, holding the Cubs scoreless for his six innings and facing two batters over the minimum, while striking out seven.
Two baserunners reached in the first inning against Kazmir, who walked leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler and hit Anthony Rizzo in the molecule with a pitch. But Kazmir struck out hot-hitting second baseman Ben Zobrist to escape that dilemma.
After that, Fowler’s third-inning single was the only other Cub to touch first against Kazmir — and Fowler was picked off moments later.
Blanton was perfect in his two innings of relief, striking out three, and Liberatore completed the one-hit shutout.