CINCINNATI (AP) — Jake Arrieta was shutting ‘em down and the Cubs’ offense was piling up the hits. The defending World Series champions felt a little more like their old selves for one game.
Next challenge: Keep it going into the All-Star break.
Arrieta pitched one-hit ball for seven innings without allowing a stolen base on Sunday, and Ian Happ homered twice in the ballpark where he played as a college star, leading Chicago to a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cubs (41-41) salvaged the final game of their series with a little vintage form.
“That’s kind of what we do when we’re at our best,” Arrietta said.
Injuries to the starting lineup and inconsistencies in the rotation have left the World Series champions treading water. Arrieta (8-6) was coming off a subpar performance that created friction and a surprise move.
The Nationals stole seven bases off Arrieta during their 6-1 win on Tuesday, and catcher Miguel Montero complained afterward about the pitcher’s move to the plate with runners on base. Montero was cut loose the following day.
Back in the ballpark where he threw a no-hitter last season, Arrieta was back in form, allowing only Joey Votto’s first-inning single and a pair of walks — the Reds were never in position to try to steal. Votto singled home a pair of runs in the eighth off Koji Uehara.
Arrieta matched his season high by going seven innings for the third time. He got his changeup working and induced a lot of awkward swings.
“That was as good as I’ve seen Jake in a bit,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The Reds felt that way, too.
“Arrieta was really good,” manager Bryan Price said . “He didn’t give us much.”
Happ grew up in the Pittsburgh area and played at the University of Cincinnati, including one game at Great American Ball Park. His mother was in the stands along with many former teammates and friends. Happ was well aware of the tendency for balls to fly in warm weather at Great American.
“Day games here, if you get one on the barrel you’ve got a chance,” Happ said.
The first-round pick from 2015 hit a two-run homer and a solo shot off Tim Adleman (5-5). The rookie added an RBI single, the third time he’s driven in four runs in a game.
Anthony Rizzo also had a solo homer, and Javier Baez doubled home a run as the Cubs prevented a three-game sweep.
The Reds drew 60,838 fans for a three-game series against Milwaukee leading up to the Chicago series. They drew 117,863 fans for the weekend series, many of them Cubs fans.