The scenario is almost too good to be true for Jake Arrieta, who will try to regain momentum for the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Arrieta returns to the scene of his first no-hitter in 2015 under similar conditions — a twilight start in comfortable weather — tailored for a hard-throwing pitcher. Any statistical advantage the Dodgers believe they might have with their flock of left-handed hitters is offset by Arrieta’s success against both left-handed and right-handed batters.
And a strong performance by Arrieta could alleviate some of the scrutiny of the Cubs’ lack of offense in the postseason — particularly from the middle of the order — while giving them the same confidence they had in the second half of last season each time Arrieta took the mound.
"I’ll use some of the experience from my last time out here," said Arrieta, who no-hit the Dodgers on Aug. 30, 2015. "It’s a completely different game, obviously, with being in the postseason. It’s going to have a little different feel. But it’s just about the same lineup. You try to tackle them accordingly and use some knowledge that I have from the past.
"It’s just another game on a big stage, and we’re all prepared for it."
Although some Cubs pitchers bristled over manager Joe Maddon’s decision to economize their innings during the regular season, Arrieta said he feels much stronger than he did last October, when he was visibly fatigued in his final two postseason starts.
"Going through that last year has prepared myself, as well as the rest of the guys, mentally for a longer run this year, and we’ve been able to handle the moments mentally a lot better as well as physically," Arrieta said. "I’m in a much better place, and I think a lot of our guys are as well."
Five of the eight position players who faced Arrieta during his no-hitter remain starters for the Dodgers, and four are left-handed hitters: Chase Utley, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson. Left-handed-hitting outfielder Josh Reddick, acquired Aug. 1 from the Athletics, is 4-for-9 lifetime against Arrieta.
But left-handed hitters batted only .194 this season against Arrieta — the same mark as right-handers.
"Just having a good mix and not falling into predictable patterns is why I’ve been able to do well against left-handed and right-handed hitters," said Arrieta, who has held Utley hitless in 13 career at-bats.
Arrieta faced the Dodgers once this season, throwing seven shutout innings before leaving with no decision May 31 at Wrigley Field. He struck out eight but walked four in the 107-pitch outing, and the Dodgers scored five runs off the bullpen to end the Cubs’ streak of 23 wins in Arrieta starts.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said his offense is "going to have our work cut out for us."
"We’ve got to have an approach, a plan, which I know we will," Roberts said. "And when they do make mistakes, we’ve got to capitalize. That’s as simple as it can possibly be."