What a magnificent performance Monday afternoon by the Cubs bullpen after Jason Hammel departed with what was reported as a "hamstring cramp."
Hammel fell to the mound while he was warming up for the third inning of the Cubs' 2-0 win over the Dodgers. He threw a few warmup pitches and then left the field under his own power. Here's some video of the whole thing, and at one point in this video you see Trevor Cahill head down to the bullpen to start warming up. What you can't see is what we saw at the ballpark: pitching coach Chris Bosio signaling with his left hand, several times. He obviously wanted Travis Wood, and eventually Wood headed to the pen, then to the mound.
And he pitched four excellent innings, retiring all 12 hitters he faced and just pounding the zone with strikes: 35 in 43 pitches. The rest of the Cubs pen: Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon (ninth save) were just as good. The pen retired all 21 hitters they faced, seven by strikeout, and with Hammel retiring the last four hitters he faced, it was 25 consecutive Dodgers going down after a single and a walk in the first inning, a tremendous performance.
In fact, looking back, that one hit almost wasn't. It was blooped into short right-center field by Justin Turner, and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, both not playing their regular positions, converged on it, but it dropped for a hit. Heyward made a long run to even get to the ball; most outfielders wouldn't have even gotten that far. Here's video of how far Heyward ran to even have a shot at catching that ball. Adrian Gonzalez walked on four pitches, but then Hammel retired Joc Pederson on a foul popup -- and that was it for the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, the Cubs got the bases loaded with one out in the second, but Alex Wood struck out Hammel and Zobrist to get out of it. They finally got to Wood in the fifth, when Zobrist singled and then raced to third on an error by Yasiel Puig, and scored on an infield hit by Heyward. Anthony Rizzo doubled in Heyward and the Cubs had a 2-0 lead. It might have been larger if not for a slick play by Turner on a sharp grounder by Jorge Soler.
The Dodger bullpen also did a good job of keeping this one close. Rizzo was hit by a pitch leading off the eighth, but Tim Federowicz, pinch-hitting, hit into a double play. Why T-Fed was swinging away, I have no idea; he was a clear DP candidate and I thought he was in the game to bunt. Addison Russell then singled, but the Dodgers put Pedro Baez in to pitch to Javier Baez and got him to pop up. That was the second same-name matchup of the game, as both teams also used pitchers named Wood. (The Cubs and Dodgers don't have any other matching-name players.)
The cramp Hammel suffered doesn't seem serious:
Hammel (joking): "I blew the no-hitter." Said he drank the equivalent of Lake Michigan last night, baffled by cramping.— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) May 31, 2016
It really does seem strange this would have happened. It was an absolutely perfect weather day, 70 degrees at game time with a lake breeze at 12 miles per hour -- not hot, not humid, not usually a day where anyone would cramp up. Since he walked off under his own power, it's not likely to be any sort of serious injury, and I'd expect Hammel to be able to make his next start.
This game is the 21st one-hitter thrown by Cubs pitching at Wrigley Field since the last Cubs home no-hitter by Milt Pappas in 1972. The last two before Monday were thrown by Jake Arrieta, September 27, 2015 against the Pirates and September 16, 2014 against the Reds. There was another one-hitter thrown by the Cubs in 2014, August 24 against the Orioles, a combined effort by Tsuyoshi Wada, Neil Ramirez, Strop and Rondon. Before that you have to go back to June 13, 2010, the near-no-hitter by Ted Lilly, which was finished by Carlos Marmol.
This team continues to do more amazing things every single day, standing now 21 games over .500 and with a chance to finish May with a 19-9 record. They'll try to make it two in a row over the Dodgers and seven straight overall Tuesday evening, with Jake on the mound against Scott Kazmir.