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Cubs 1, Pirates 0: Doubling their pleasure

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Pitching, defense and a solo homer. What could be better?

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

I’d be a lot more concerned about the Cubs’ lack of offense the last two nights if the pitching and defense hadn’t been so outstanding.

For the second straight game, the Cubs got an outstanding outing from their starting pitcher and a solo home run for the only run of the game, resulting in another 1-0 win over the Pirates. A rain delay of an hour and 47 minutes had no impact on the Cubs turning in their third straight win.

This one, though, had an added bonus: great defense. Cole Hamels, as strong and solid as he was, kept allowing baserunners. And then he kept inducing ground balls to record double plays. Five of them happened while Hamels was pitching (first, second, third, sixth and seventh innings) and relievers Jorge De La Rosa (line drive, doubled off first, upheld after a challenge) and Jesse Chavez had the other two, the latter ending the game for Chavez’ first save as a Cub.

The seven double plays tied a major-league record:

Here are all seven double plays [VIDEO] — the seventh one ended the game.

Despite all the baserunners, Hamels was excellent in his fourth start as a Cub. He worked quickly, helping keep hitters off balance (other Cubs starters: take note!), and though he had only three strikeouts in his seven innings of work, he didn’t really need to K hitters, as 10 of the 21 outs he recorded were via the double play.

It’s as if the Cubs magically traded for the Hamels who helped lead the Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008. At 34 he seems completely rejuvenated. Or, as Len and JD mentioned on the broadcast, just happy to get out of Globe Life Park in Texas, where he posted a 6.41 ERA in 10 starts this year, with 16 home runs allowed in 59 innings. In all other ballparks in 2018, Hamels has a 2.24 ERA in 80⅓ innings with just seven homers allowed. He has yet to allow a home run as a Cub in 25 innings. Just outstanding. And speaking of 2008:

The Cubs managed just six hits off Trevor Williams and two Pirates relievers. Fortunately, one of them was this majestic blast [VIDEO] by Kyle Schwarber.

For Kyle, it was his first home run in nearly two weeks and just his second since the All-Star break. Check out the height on this arc:

And thanks to Hamels, Brandon Kintzler, De La Rosa, Steve Cishek and Chavez, that’s all the Cubs needed for their second straight win in this series.

The seven double plays tied a record, and so did the solo home run to victory:

The game was the Cubs’ third 1-0 win of the season (the two noted above are the others), and their 14th shutout overall. The 2016 Cubs, the greatest Cubs team in any of our lifetimes, posted 15 shutouts. 41 games still remain in the 2018 season.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to win every single game this way. But the Cubs got just enough offense, and outstanding pitching and defense, and it worked for two wins in a row, and now three straight victories overall.

With the Cardinals’ win over the Brewers (well, someone had to win that game), the Cubs’ lead in the N.L. Central increased to 4½ games over Milwaukee. The Cardinals trail by five. The Cubs lead both of them in the loss column by six. As long as St. Louis doesn’t sweep that series, that will wind up as a good result for the Cubs.

The gauntlet has been thrown to you, Tyler Chatwood. Can Chatwood match the Cub starting pitching outings from the last two nights? (Seriously, stranger things have happened, though not many.) Joe Musgrove goes for the Pirates. Game time again is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN.

The record for consecutive 1-0 wins by any team is three, and it hasn’t been accomplished in over 100 years. The last team to do it was the 1917 Cardinals. More record-setting to come? Tune in tonight.