On the day when the Cubs made the signing of Craig Kimbrel official, Cole Hamels served notice that the team’s starting rotation could be just as dominant as we all hope Kimbrel is.
Hamels threw for the second straight start against the Cardinals, and for the second straight start they could not solve him. Friday on a gorgeous early summer afternoon at Wrigley Field, Hamels threw eight shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts, and the Cubs opened the weekend series with a 3-1 win over their arch-rivals.
Hamels retired the side in order in the first inning and then the Cubs got to work. Anthony Rizzo, who thrives in the leadoff spot, drew a walk and then, with the Cardinals not paying attention, stole second base as Carlos Gonzalez struck out.
Three pitches later, Javier Baez made that stolen base moot [VIDEO].
Quite the launch angle into a wind blowing off Lake Michigan on that one:
Turns out that was all the runs the Cubs would need. Hamels gave up a two-out double in the second, then retired five in a row before a walk in the fourth, then five more in a row before a sixth-inning single, then three more before a two-out single in the seventh.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were extending the lead. Gonzalez walked to lead off the fourth, but was thrown out trying to steal as Baez struck out. But then the Cubs put together a two-out, nobody-on rally, something they’ve done a lot of in this homestand. Jason Heyward doubled down the right-field line, and Victor Caratini brought him in [VIDEO].
Caratini had a good day at the plate, with two hits and a walk, and obviously called a fine game for Hamels, who wound up his day by striking out the side in the eighth inning.
Rewinding just a bit, there was a curious play that ended the Cubs’ fifth inning. Anthony Rizzo singled and then Kris Bryant... well, watch [VIDEO].
The ball definitely hit the Cubs security person sitting next to the ball girl down the left-field line. What you cannot see in this video — and at this writing the Cubs broadcast is archived and I can’t get you a screenshot from there — is third-base umpire Brian Gorman giving the “safe” sign, indicating that the ball was in play. However, Marcell Ozuna saw the ball hit the security person, and put his hands up thinking the play would be ruled dead. Rizzo, running, saw that but then must have seen the “in play” sign from the umpire, and continued running, but tentatively. He was thrown out easily.
Joe Maddon went out to confer with the umpires, but that play must not be reviewable, or they would certainly have reviewed it.
As I said, since the Cubs won the game anyway, this is more a curiosity than anything important, but I’d still love to hear the umpires’ reasoning.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the seventh off Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley, but Bryant struck out to end the rally.
About the only thing I’d open the complaint department door for after this one was Pedro Strop’s outing in the ninth. He clearly didn’t have fastball command and it showed; Paul DeJong homered off him to break up the shutout, but he recovered to strike out Paul Goldschmidt and got Ozuna to fly to center to end it.
Personally, I thought Hamels could have at least started the ninth at 99 pitches (74 strikes), unless he’d told Maddon that he was gassed. It was his best outing of the season, and now in two starts vs. the Cardinals this year he’s thrown 15⅓ innings, allowed five hits and one unearned run, walked three and struck out 14. And as for Cubs starting pitching in general recently:
#Cubs starting pitching last 9 games:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2019
1.96 ERA, 59.2 IP, 35 Hits, 13 Walks, 58 Strikeouts, 0.804 WHIP
3 or fewer runs allowed in all 9 game.
The Cubs are just 5-4 in those nine games due primarily to a lack of offense. They’ve scored 35 runs in the last nine games and allowed 30. Good pitching, to be sure, but the offense needs to pick it up. Friday, it was just enough, with Hamels being so outstanding. But Strop’s somewhat shaky save (his sixth) had me wondering just how quickly Kimbrel could be ready.
As noted, it was a perfect weather day at Wrigley, with a light wind off the lake, unlimited sunshine and a temperature around 70. The announced crowd of 40,671 — and there were very few empty seats — was the fourth-largest of the year and Friday’s 2:39 game time was the sixth-fastest Wrigley game this year.
And so apart from Pedro’s little glitch, the complaint department is closed.
Saturday, the Cubs and Cardinals will play again, this time on Fox-TV’s “Baseball Night in America” at 6:15 p.m. CT. Here’s coverage info for Saturday. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs Saturday against Jack Flaherty for St. Louis.