CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta is already in the hunt for National League Cy Young Award selection, but a spectacular second half is also generating talk of Most Valuable Player honors for the Chicago Cubs right-hander.
"He absolutely has to be in that (MVP) conversation," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon after Arrieta's one-hit, nine strikeout performance in Sunday's 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. "What he's done in the second half is, I guess, unparalleled. Nobody's ever seen what he's doing right now."
Arrieta (21-6) threw 84 pitches -- 54 for strikes -- over seven innings as he collected a franchise-record 19th straight quality start and 10th win in 11 outings, a run that included one no-decision and a no-hitter.
"He definitely had no-hitter stuff tonight," said Maddon. "I talked about it earlier in the year, I thought there was another level to him. I think you're seeing it right now."
Arrieta even contributed a second-inning home run -- his second of the season -- as the Cubs (90-65) snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided a series sweep.
Along with his homer, Arrieta also sent a long drive to the warning track in the sixth.
Arrieta was perfect though six innings, then gave up a leadoff single to right fielder Gregory Polanco and hit center fielder Andrew McCutchen with a pitch with one out. But he preserved the shutout when third baseman Aramis Ramirez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Arrieta, who has an 0.89 ERA with 140 strikeouts through his last 19 starts, hasn't lost since July 25 when he gave up three earned runs in six innings vs. the Phillies.
"I see some of the information, people tell me things about the comparables," Arrieta said. "It's pretty exciting, but there's still work to be done. It's nice to put a little thought into it and then move forward and continue to pursue the goals we set for ourselves."
Pirates right-handed starter A.J. Burnett (9-6) worked six solid innings and gave up two runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked a pair.
"You want to go up against the best," Burnett said. "He's having a great year and he's got great stuff and it puts you on your game, too."
Pittsburgh (95-61) then went through a parade of four pitchers in the seventh until right-hander Arquimedes Caminero closed the inning.
Cubs left-hander Travis Wood worked the final two innings, allowing just one baserunner while striking out two.
Bryant's one-out single to left-center in the first inning brought home Fowler for a 1-0 Cubs lead.
Chicago went on to load the bases as first baseman Anthony Rizzo walked and Castro beat out an infield single. But Burnett escaped more damage by striking out right fielder Jorge Soler while Montero grounded to second.
Arrieta helped his cause in the second, launching a 1-0 Burnett pitch to right field for his second home run of the season and a 2-0 Cubs lead.
Pittsburgh's one hit was its fewest at Wrigley Field since June 8, 1958.
"We have had a really good road trip," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "You go 8-2 on a 10-day road trip where we went to play, very positive and a lot of good things going on. ... (Now) we get to go home and play the team we're hunting."
Pittsburgh hosts St. Louis in a three-game series starting Monday.
NOTES: SS Jordy Mercer was batting .368 in 10 games since INF Jung Ho Kane was lost for the season on Sept. 17. ... The Pirates send LHP J.A. Happ (6-2, 2.28 ERA) against Cardinal RHP Lance Lynn (12-10, 3.16 ERA) in Monday's series opener at PNC Park. ... The Cubs close their home regular season on Monday with a makeup game against AL Central champion Kansas City. ... Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-7, 4.23) goes against Royals RHP Yordano Ventura (12-8, 4.40 ERA) in Monday's regular-season finale at Wrigley Field.