Jason Hammel picked up his career-high 11th win on Tuesday night in the Cubs’ 3-2 victory over Jose Fernandez and the Marlins. The Cubs improved to 65-41 on the season, 24 games over .500, and will begin play Wednesday afternoon a full nine games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central.
The Cubs own the best record in baseball.
Hammel quieted his critics for one more night with six shutout innings against the Marlins. Hammel is 6-1 in 10 starts at Wrigley this season with a 2.24 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
Maybe it’s the potato chip diet. Or maybe it’s all the hard work he put in last off-season. Hammel is healthy and he’s started the second half of the season with four very good outings.
Jason Hammel is 4-0 in his last four starts (Rangers, Brewers, White Sox, Marlins) with a 1.50 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Hammel has allowed four runs on 16 hits with seven walks and 21 strikeouts in 24 innings.
Hammel and Willson Contreras were on the same page Tuesday night. When asked about working with Contreras after the game, Hammel said, “He’s a great kid. I love him. He’s basically gotten better every start I’ve worked with him.”
In order for the Cubs to hold off the Cardinals and reach the first goal of the season, Jason Hammel will have to continue to pitch the way he has over his first four starts in the second half.
Jorge Soler is trying to get his timing back and reached base three times Tuesday in the Smokies 9-1 win in Birmingham.
Soler went 1-for-4 with two walks, two strikeouts and a run scored. Justin Rocke described Soler’s single in his second plate appearance as “a screaming line drive single to left.” Soler was the Smokies’ DH for the night and hit second in Mark Johnson’s lineup behind Chesny Young and in front of Ian Happ.
Trevor Cahill made his fourth start for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday. And it was a good one. Cahill did not allow any runs and surrendered only two hits in four innings. Cahill walked two and struck out six on 62 pitches, 38 for strikes. Iowa eventually lost the game 1-0.
Cahill has allowed nine runs, seven earned, on 19 hits with nine walks and 19 strikeouts over 14 1/3 innings in four starts with Iowa (4.40 ERA, 1.95 WHIP)
According to the Tribune, the Cubs have Cahill in line to start one of the games of the doubleheader with the Brewers on Aug. 16 at Wrigley Field.
Cahill has been on the 15-day DL since July 15 (retroactive to July 9) with right knee patellar tendinitis. The Cubs sent him on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on July 18.
With Adam Warren back in the Bronx, Clayton Richard and Brian Matusz in limbo (both lefties designated for assignment), Cahill is the Cubs’ sixth starter. Cahill has been starting games for Iowa
Randy Wehofer reported that Cahill was specifically working on his breaking and off-speed stuff during his outing on July 28 and there were mixed results that led to him giving up three runs, two earned, on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts. Wehofer said at the time that Cahill had good command of his fastball.
The Cubs have a couple of weeks before they have to make a decision about Cahill. A pitcher can be on a rehab assignment for 30 days. Cahill’s rehab assignment ends on Aug. 16. The Tribune reported the Cubs have not committed to Cahill starting one of the games against the Brewers.
Ian Happ started in center field Tuesday for the first time this season. Happ played one inning in center before Tuesday. Happ has now played all three outfield spots since his promotion to Double-A Tennessee.
Happ went 2-for-6 with a RBI in the Smokies 9-1 win over the Barons.
Happ appears to be adjusting back to the league after a rough stretch. Happ has hit safely in each of his last four games and six of eight.
In 36 games for Double-A Tennessee, Happ is batting .286/.315/.400 with 10 doubles and two home runs for a .715 OPS.
News and Notes
• Dexter Fowler sets tone for the Cubs according to Bruce Levine. When Fowler scores at least one run, the Cubs are 87-32 over the last two seasons. When Fowler scores two or more runs, the Cubs are 27-4. Jason Hammel said Fowler is the “engine of this machine.”
• The Cubs follow playoff formula in beating Jose Fernandez and the Marlins according to Comcast SportsNet. Jose Fernandez’s hard stuff is no problem for Dexter Fowler and the Cubs according to ESPN Chicago.
• According to the Tribune, the Cubs are experimenting to find the best closing time for Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs have welcomed Aroldis Chapman with open arms according to ESPN Chicago. And Joe Maddon said after Tuesday’s win over the Marlins that he will use Chapman for one inning and not in four-out save situations.
• ESPN Chicago reported Joe Maddon talked about his batting order philosophy.
• Comcast SportsNet explained why the Cubs didn’t trade for a big bat at the deadline. Patrick Mooney reported the A’s wanted two high-end pitching prospects for Josh Reddick, a similar package to the one Billy Beane received for Ben Zobrist last year. The Cubs’ system is deep but not on the pitching side and they could not offer what the Dodgers paid for Reddick and Rich Hill. As for Jay Bruce and Jonathan Lucroy, the Cubs did not think the Reds or Brewers really wanted to trade within the division.
• The Cubs were one of the winners at the deadline according to Buster Olney. The Cubs bullpen “is fully loaded now with Hector Rondon, Mike Montgomery, Joe Smith, etc., in front of Aroldis Chapman.”
• Tony Andracki posted six things we learned about the Cubs in July.
Be nice on Twitter. pic.twitter.com/pqw1dr4V6Y
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 3, 2016
Maybe it will roll fou—https://t.co/8XI3W4oFlD
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 3, 2016
And last, but not least, Javier Baez is coming of age according to Bruce Levine.
This Day in Cubstory
2006 – Matt Murton tied a Major League record with four doubles in the second game of a doubleheader against the Diamondbacks. Cubs topped Arizona 7-3.
2004 – Indians signed amateur free agent Hector Rondon
1982 – Starter Chuck Rainey is one of four pitchers who combined to shutout the Cardinals 4-0. Rainey and the Cubs allowed 12 hits, two short of the record for the most hits allowed in a shutout. Bill Campbell wrapped up the game with a three inning save.
1975 – Roosevelt Brown, born
1972 – Bill Hands pitched a one-hitter in the Cubs 3-0 victory over the Expos in the second game of a doubleheader in Montreal. Expos won game one 2-1 in 13 innings.
1968 – Rod Beck, born
1937 – Cubs increased their lead in the National League to seven games with a 4-1 win over the Phillies. Bill Lee hit a home run and picked up his 10th straight win over Philly that dated back to 1935.
1932 – Cubs released Rogers Hornsby
1929 – Cubs complained Brooklyn pitcher Dazzy Vance was wearing a ragged shirt sleeve to distract the vision of the hitters. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 12-2 at Wrigley behind Hal Carlson.