It was their 75th win of the year and put them back to 32 games over .500 (matching the high point of 2015) at 75-43. They led the N.L. Central by 12½ games.
Wherever this Jason Hammel came from, I think the Cubs should keep him around for a while.
Hammel threw seven outstanding shutout innings in Tuesday's nightcap, allowing just a pair of singles and three walks. Just one Brewers runner got past first base against him and the Cubs defeated the Brewers 4-1, sweeping their doubleheader.
Before you get the details on this win, I'm going to open the complaint department door just a tiny bit. Because Travis Wood allowed a two-out homer to Hernan Perez in the ninth and then a single, and Aroldis Chapman had to be summoned for a save (but not until after he loaded the bases on a walk and another single), we got this:
Aroldis Chapman: first #Cubs pitcher to earn a save in both games of a doubleheader since Jeff Fassero 4/18/2001 vs Phillies— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 17, 2016
... instead of this:
#Cubs won 4-0 in game one of today's doubleheader.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 16, 2016
Last Cubs doubleheader with two shutout wins?
July 11, 1965 (two 6-0 wins vs Cardinals)
The Cubs have been doing a lot of things this year that haven't been done in decades, and it would have been nice to add that one to the list. However, even the one run allowed in the two games Tuesday accomplished something that hadn't been done in 32 years:
#Cubs allow one run total in a doubleheader for first time since July 29, 1984 at Shea Stadium (3-0, 5-1 wins vs Mets)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 17, 2016
#firstplaceproblems, I know.
Slam! That's the sound of the complaint department door closing up tight again, because this doubleheader sweep had a lot of things we'll remember for a long time.
Brewers starter Chase Anderson had taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning the last time he faced the Cubs. This time, he faced only two batters after Kris Bryant hit a ball off Anderson's left knee:
He threw a couple of warmup pitches and left the game.
The Cubs had better luck off his replacement, Jhan Marinez. In the third inning, David Ross walked, advanced to second on a single by Hammel (who has 14 hits and seven RBI this year) and scored on a single by Bryant. The Cubs had an excellent opportunity in the fourth inning, loading the bases with one out, but Ross hit into a double play to end the inning.
That's when the game turned into a highlight reel. Only four days past the one-year anniversary of Anthony Rizzo's famous "tarp catch" -- also against the Brewers -- Rizzo jumped up onto the wall next to the tarp to grab this foul pop hit by Keon Broxton:
What incredible instincts and balance by Rizzo to make that catch, and then he nonchalantly jumped over the tarp back onto the field. Kudos to the fans who stayed out of Rizzo's way while he made that play. You can likely hear the planning meeting in the marketing department for a 2017 bobblehead commemorating this one. Why, it could look very much like this:
The game moved along, Hammel continuing to mow down Brewers hitters. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee's only real hitting threat, had left the game in the fourth inning attempting to catch a foul fly ball down the left-field line, apparently hurting his knee running into the padded wall. This makes it sound like he won't play tonight, at least:
Ryan Braun says he has a sprained knee & sprained ankle, "but all things considered, it's probably the best-case scenario." Ligaments intact— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) August 17, 2016
Braun, who was booed loudly in his two at-bats before the injury, left to polite applause, probably the only time he'll ever get that at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs looked like they had another run in the fifth, when Matt Szczur attempted to score from second on a single by Rizzo. He was called out at the plate, and after review, it was "call stands." Oddly, there's no video online for this call -- not even on the MLB Replays Twitter feed, which usually has video links to every reviewed call. Szczur appeared to get his hand on the plate before he was tagged, and he immediately pointed to the dugout as if he knew that. But the review crew apparently felt they didn't have enough to overturn the call on the field.
In the seventh, Ben Zobrist led off with a double and he was singled in by Willson Contreras. Then Javier Baez smashed this long home run deep into the left-center field bleachers:
That one left the yard in a hurry:
Javier Baez HR was hit 105.7 MPH and projected at 408ft...— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 17, 2016
And then it was left to the bullpen to preserve the lead, and hopefully, the shutout. Justin Grimm threw a solid eighth inning, and now has 15 consecutive scoreless appearances covering 12⅓ innings. In those innings he's allowed five hits and four walks (0.73 WHIP) and struck out 15. With Pedro Strop out until at least late September, Grimm has to step up and take over that seventh-inning role. He appears capable of doing that.
Then Wood entered for the ninth, and got the first two hitters easily before allowing the homer to Perez.
The Cubs once again moved to a season-high 32 games over. 500, matching the high point of last year. The last time they were more than 32 games over was in 2008, when they reached a high-water mark of 35 games over (85-50) and finished 33 over. They once again have pushed their run differential over +200 (+201) and gained half a game on the Cardinals, who also won Tuesday night. Their lead over St. Louis stands at 12½ games, and 13½ over the Pirates, who defeated the Giants.
The whole day at Wrigley was magnificent, from the baseball to the spectacularly nice weather (low 80s, low humidity, unlimited sunshine for the day game, clear skies for the night game). Large crowds started to gather early for the 5:30 p.m. opening for Game 2, because yet another popular giveaway (a Joe Maddon bobblehead) had been scheduled. The Cubs really should have more than 10,000 of these things for fans, I think. Many teams (the Dodgers and Yankees, in particular) do this.
More on Hammel and the Cubs' outstanding recent starting pitching:
Jason Hammel 2016— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 17, 2016
0.95 ERA, 38.0 IP, 0.895 WHIP post All-Star break (6 starts)
1.79 ERA, 70.1 IP, 0.995 WHIP at Wrigley (12 starts)#Cubs
#Cubs starters— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 17, 2016
2.09 ERA, 193.1 IP, 0.947 WHIP post All-Star break (30 games)
1.12 ERA, 96.2 IP, 0.797 WHIP in August (14 games)
#Cubs runs allowed by starting pitchers this month (by game):— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 17, 2016
0, 0, 3, 2, 0, 1, 1, 0, 2, 1, 2, 1, 0, 0
The Cubs are 12-2 in August. That matches their win total for all of July (12-14). They've outscored their opponents 68-31 this month, and are 23-8 since they won the last game before the All-Star break, just two games "worse" than their 25-6 start to the 2016 season.
Righted the ship? I'd say that ship is steaming ahead at full power.
The Cubs will have to make a roster decision before Wednesday's game. It's pretty obvious that Trevor Cahill, who was the 26th man for the doubleheader, will be sticking around. In fact, according to this Tribune article, he might even get another start:
John Lackey's right shoulder is sore enough that the Cubs are considering numerous options that range from giving him an additional day or two of rest before his next scheduled start to placing him on the 15-day disabled list.
Lackey declined to talk to reporters before the doubleheader, saying he hadn't "checked in" with the medical staff. But Maddon confirmed after the first game that Lackey's soreness, which caused him to leave Sunday's game in the seventh inning, persisted.
Lackey, 37, who leads the Cubs with 24 starts and 158 1/3 innings, would miss at least two starts if he was placed on the DL, retroactive to Monday.
Cahill threw only 84 pitches Tuesday and could take Lackey's turn Saturday against the Rockies.
"Whatever they do, I'll do it," Cahill said. "I don't want to speculate."
To make room for Cahill, someone will have to go off the 25-man roster. The Cubs could send Grimm back to Iowa, but that doesn't seem likely given how well he's thrown recently. They could also option Carl Edwards Jr. back to Triple-A; it's just two weeks until the rosters expand, and he'd obviously be back then. Or they could cut ties with Joe Smith, who's been pretty awful in six Cubs appearances.
Or, maybe it will be Lackey to the DL. If they do make that move retroactive to Monday, Lackey would be eligible to return August 29, just three days before roster expansion happens.
Stay tuned for that, as I do expect a roster move before Wednesday night's game.
I'll leave you with this thought, which my friend Mike and I were discussing toward the end of the second-game win. Sweeping series is hard, especially four-game sets. The Cubs have had eight four-game series this year and have swept one of them (against the Nationals in May). Last year they swept a four-game set four times (Mets, Brewers, Giants, Braves).
If there's a four-game series that seems ripe for sweeping, it's this one, with the Cubs having Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta lined up for the last two games and the Brewers reeling, having lost 10 of their last 15 and probably without their best hitter, Braun.