Today's look back at last year's Cubs' season via Topps Now brings us a two-fer. Cards numbered 29 and 30 highlight Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta and the Cubs' 16-0 no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.
Before we get to the cards, let me set the scene a bit.
On July 25, 2015, the Cubs were no-hit by Cole Hamels to end a streak of 7,920 consecutive games with a Cubs hit, the longest streak ever. Why am I mentioning something that happened a year and a half before this? Because after that game, the Cincinnati Reds became the owner of the longest active team hitting streak at 7,026 games.
Back to present day. Errr, I mean a year ago today. The Reds' streak has been extended to 7,109 games.
The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta is taking the mound for the Cubs. He picked up where he left off, beginning the new season 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA.
Kris Bryant was coming off a Rookie of the Year season but hadn't quite kicked in to his MVP groove yet.
The Cubs as a team were atop the National League Central with a an 11-3 record. The Reds were in a tie for 2nd place with a respectable-because-it's-still-early 8-7 record. And no I'm not saying that because its the current Cubs situation, ha! I'm saying it because in 2015, the top three records in baseball came out of the NL Central and did not include the Reds.
The previous afternoon, the Reds had walked-off the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs had dropped one to the Cardinals after an uncharacteristic bumpy start from Kyle Hendricks.
Even though the Cubs regularly brought in 40,000+ fans at Wrigley and visiting ballparks throughout the season, this game had an official attendance of only 16,497.
And then the fun began.
Dexter Fowler led off the game with a double (You Go, We Go). After a Jason Heyward strike out, Kris Bryant put the Cubs on the board with his 3rd home run of the season. Fast forward through Ben Zobrist, David Ross and Anthony Rizzo home runs (among other scoring), Bryant hit a one-out grand slam in the top of the 7th to bring the score to 13-0. Not to mention his two other singles and runs scored.
As the back of the card mentions, despite this offensive output, he was overshadowed by Jake Arrieta's no-hitter.
Speaking of which...
Card #30 focuses on Arrieta's 2nd career no-hitter. His previous one came on August 30, 2015 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, just 9 starts prior. Only Johnny Vander Meer (back-to-back starts) and Warren Spahn (5) had fewer starts between no-hitters.
So while his offense was plowing through Cincinnati pitching, Arrieta was doing the same to their hitters. The only Reds baserunners were due to four walks, but Arrieta faced just two more than the minimum. Joey Votto was picked off 1st base in the 4th inning and a 7th inning double play cancelled out another.
Including this game, Arrieta was 15-0 with a 0.53 ERA (and two no-hitters) in his previous 16 starts. This was the second biggest blowout no-hitter, only behind an 18-0 romp between the Buffalo Bisons and Detroit Wolverines in 1884. So yeah, kind of a big deal.
After a three no hitters in 2013, five in 2014 and modern era record tying seven no-hitters across the MLB in 2015, Arrieta's gem was the only one in 2016 and still the most recent as of this post. In fact, you have to go back to 2006 to find the previous season with only one.
Fan favorite David Ross caught the no-hitter, the first of his career. On a side note, what an amazing final season for that guy, eh? Miguel Montero had caught Arrieta's first no-hitter which was the second for him. Montero previously caught future Cub Edwin Jackson's while with the Dimanondbacks back in 2010.
The Cubs return to Great American Ballpark tonight and although Arrieta was originally scheduled to start, Jon Lester will be taking the mound.
As for these cards, Topps Now was starting to pick up some steam by now. Combine that with an actual historical feat and the buzz surrounding the Cubs and you have a perfect storm for the highest print runs to date. While the Addison Russell and John Lackey cards were a paltry 331 and 224 respectively, the Kris Bryant had a print run of 1644 and Jake Arrieta came in at 1808. Among regular season Cubs cards that ranks them as #4 and #5 in quantity and because of those numbers the value (based on eBay finished auctions) has remained relatively low.
Also of note, at this time last year, these were cards #29 & #30. For the 2017 incarnation, through games played on April 19th, there are already 65 cards. And print runs have remained under 1,000 aside for the cards commemorating the Cubs World Series banner, trophy and rings and a random Andrew Benintendi rookie card. Hmmm....