As gorgeous and wonderful as Friday's weather was at Wrigley Field, that's how nasty it was on Saturday. Windy, chilly and rainy for most of the afternoon, the teams nevertheless started play on time just a bit after 1:20 CT.
The weather was nasty, but Cubs baseball was just as beautiful as it has been all season. Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo homered, and Jason Hammel threw seven solid innings in the Cubs' 5-3 win over the Diamondbacks, their fourth win in a row. Hammel also drove in a pair of runs with this two-run single [VIDEO] up the middle in the fourth inning.
That hit epitomizes this Cubs season so far. It bounced about four times, went over the mound, appeared to be headed right to Jean Segura for an inning-ending play. And then it bounced off second base and into center field. When things are going your way... man, everything bounces the right way. Hammel now has seven RBI, second to Adam Wainwright among all major-league pitchers this year. And those runs turned out to be very important.
He also threw very well, showing no signs of the hamstring cramp that forced him out of his last start. He made one mistake. Well, two, actually: the first was issuing a two-out walk to Paul Goldschmidt after having him down 0-2. Jake Lamb followed two pitches later with a home run into the right-field bleachers to make it 2-0 D-backs.
I know you've felt this way. It feels that even when the Cubs go down early, that it doesn't matter, that this year's bunch will find a way to win. And thus they did: Hammel allowed just one more baserunner (a third-inning walk) and retired the last 13 (and 18 of the last 19) he faced. Lamb's homer was the only hit he allowed.
Meanwhile, his two-run single capped a three-run fourth that also featured this RBI double by Jorge Soler [VIDEO] that ended up in the ivy in left-center field. At the time it appeared to cost the Cubs a run, as Ben Zobrist, who had walked, had to hold at third. But Zobrist and Soler both scored on Hammel's hit. Fun fact about Hammel's hitting:
Most #Cubs RBI in Jason Hammel starts this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 4, 2016
Pedro Strop relieved Hammel in the eighth and wasn't sharp. He gave up a leadoff homer to Yasmany Tomas that bounced off the top of the ledge in the well in left field and over our heads onto Waveland Avenue. Two outs later, he gave up back-to-back singles and then Trevor Cahill came in. Cahill walked Goldschmidt to load the bases. (A better result, I suppose, than giving up a hit or longball to Goldschmidt). Joe Maddon summoned Travis Wood to throw to the the lefthanded-hitting Lamb. D-backs manager Chip Hale replaced Lamb (who's hitting .118/.286/.294, 4-for-34, though with two homers) against lefthanders with Rickie Weeks Jr., a much better matchup, I thought. (Incidentally, this is not the son of the former Brewer. It's the same guy, just now with "Jr." after his name.)
Wood ran the count full on Weeks, who then laced a line drive up the middle -- right to Zobrist [VIDEO] to end the inning.
Rizzo homered, his 13th, tying Kris Bryant for the team lead, in the eighth off Daniel Hudson. Hudson has had an excellent year in relief for Arizona; that was the first homer he'd allowed this year in 24 appearances. The extra run gave Hector Rondon (10th save) some breathing room. He polished the D-backs off with just eight pitches, the 14th time in his career (out of 69 total saves) he's had a save with eight or fewer pitches. The inning, and game, ended on another line drive to Zobrist [VIDEO], very much like the one that ended the eighth.
I mentioned the rain. The Cubs put the tarp on the field about 12:05, but no rain fell. They took it off 50 minutes later and the game started on time -- in a steady light rain that got a little bit moderate at times, but with no lightning in the area they decided to play through it. It stopped in the middle innings, then resumed raining briefly in the seventh before finally ending. With this being the final series between the two teams this year, I suppose they figured they'd play unless there was a drenching downpour or severe weather.
About the Diamondbacks uniforms, yet another of the seemingly dozens of combinations they have, at least the numbers were easier to read on the ones they wore Saturday. But with a black jersey over dark gray pants, they looked like the umpires. It's just a very strange look, in my opinion.
The Cubs have reached the one-third mark of the 2016 season, 54 games, at 39-15. I realize this sounds ridiculous, but that puts them on pace to win 117 games. I don't really think they can do that -- it's really, really hard to win 100 games, much less 17 more -- but I wouldn't put anything past this ballclub.
Cubs walk watch: three in this game make the season total 248, or 4.59 per game. Pace: 744. At the current pace they will break the team record (650) in game 142, September 11 at Houston.
More important things come first, specifically going for yet another series sweep, which would also make a 9-1 homestand. Jake Arrieta goes for the Cubs (and for his 23rd consecutive victory), Patrick Corbin for the D-backs.