Jason Hammel held the Pirates to four hits over eight scoreless innings in the Cubs’ 4-0 victory Monday night at Wrigley Field. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each drove in two runs. For Bryant, it was his first multi-RBI game at Wrigley. Rizzo hit a RBI double in the third and a RBI single in the fifth.
Hammel struck out a season-high seven batters.
“It all comes off the fastball,” Hammel said. “If you can’t locate the fastball, you’re going to be in big trouble. For me, it’s especially important. I have to use my tall frame and use the downhill plane — sinkerballers, we have to establish a strike zone first and then you get swings early after that. I just worked on getting glove side and making sure I’m in counts that will make me succeed.”
The Cubs are 11-7; they’ve won 10 of their last 15 games.
“We know what we have in this clubhouse,” Hammel said. “It starts with Joe [Maddon]. He came in and made us know we’re going to have a good time while we’re winning. It wasn’t a drill sergeant type, it wasn’t a looking over the shoulder being a mother, dad, whatever. It’s letting us go out and be ourselves and just go play baseball. That’s all we’re doing. We’re picking each other up, and that’s what we’ll continue to do all year.”
Up next: Travis Wood starts Tuesday night in the second game of the three-game series vs. the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
Chris Coghlan, MIke Olt and Starlin Castro each hit solo home runs and Dexter Fowler hit two triples and drove in two runs to spark the Cubs to a 9-5 win over the Rockies on Saturday night. Jason Hammel got the win, giving up three runs on eight hits over six innings. Olt had a scare when he was hit by a pitch on his right wrist in the ninth inning. He had to leave the game. X-rays were negative.
The Cubs had scored three runs in their first three games of the season, and had not homered until they did so Saturday.
“The at-bats have been good. It’s just the ebb and flow of the season, and you want to get more consistent. I think our
judgement at the plate has been good.”
Hammel was a little miffed he was pulled after six innings. He felt strong and wanted another at-bat.
“He was disappointed i was taking him out because he had an opportunity to have his most at-bats in a game ever,” Maddon said. “More than him being taken out of the game, that’s what hurt him, that cut a little bit deeper. I’ll have to be aware of that.”
Back to pitching, Hammel knows how quickly things can change at Coors Field.
“Being here for the few years I was here, you learn, just hang in there, keep it close, keep battling,” he said. “The game can turn so fast. They answered real quick with two in the seventh and make a game of it.”
— Carrie Muskat
The new video scoreboard at Wrigley Field was installed above the left field bleachers in Chicago on Wednesday, and Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel has seen the photos of the renovation work being done at the 100-year-old ballpark.
“I’m excited,” Hammel said. “It looks like Baghdad, but you know there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow there. It is what it is right now, and we’re going to deal with it, but it’s exciting. It’s a long time coming and fun to be a part of, even if it will be a little sketchy to get around.
“There’s a lot of time and effort going into a place that’s pretty sacred ground,” he said. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Cubs officials have talked to the players about how the ongoing construction will affect the daily schedule. Hammel didn’t anticipate too many problems.
“Honestly, I’m a pretty easy to please guy,” Hammel said. “As long as I have a big league uniform, it’s fun for me. It’s going to be fun to go back in time later in my life to say I was part of that. It might be tough now, but we get to see the bones going up and it’ll be a fun story to tell later.”
Among the changes this year are that players can pick their walk-up music. Hammel is still deciding, but is leaning toward some Seattle grunge.
“All that stuff will be so cool,” he said. “It’s like jewels on an old crown, I guess. It’s a beautiful stadium. I don’t if that’s a good metaphor or not. If you look at a basic crown, they’re boring, but throw a couple jewels on it, and it’s nice.”
His young son won’t be picking the warm-up tune.
“We won’t be going with ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates,'” he said.
— Carrie Muskat
Anthony Rizzo hit a three-run homer, Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler each hit two-run shots, and Tommy La Stella added a solo blast to power the Cubs to an 11-7 win over the Brewers in the final Cactus League game. Wednesday’s crowd of 13,375 pushed the season total to 222,415, which is a Spring Training record for both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League. The Cubs held the mark, set last year in the first season at their Mesa facility, which was 213,815.
Jason Hammel got the win, giving up one run on six hits over five innings, while striking out five.
* The Cubs have an off day Thursday, and close the exhibition season with two games Friday and Saturday at Chase Field against the D-Backs. Edwin Jackson starts Friday, Travis Wood on Saturday.
— Carrie Muskat
Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan each belted two-run homers and Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro each added a solo shot to power the Cubs to a 6-3 victory Friday over the White Sox and former teammate Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija, who was the Cubs’ Opening Day starter last year, will kick off the season for the White Sox this year.
Jason Hammel got the win. He gave up two runs on six hits over six innings but also got bragging rights against Samardzija. The two played golf earlier this spring, and both joked about the possibility of facing each other now that they’re on different Chicago teams.
“I didn’t actually think it was going to happen,” said Hammel, who singled off Samardzija in the second inning.
He was happy with his hit, although he had been looking forward to pitching to Samardzija.
“We have a good relationship, a good friendship, and I was kind of ticked off he didn’t get an at-bat because they put the [designated hitter] in for him,” Hammel said. “I love Samardzija. Hopefully, we can face each other in the World Series.”
— Carrie Muskat
Jason Hammel struck out nine over five scoreless innings and Arismendy Alcantara hit a solo home run, but that was all the Cubs could muster against the Padres in a 6-1 loss Sunday. Tommy Medica hit a two-run homer and Brett Wallace added a two-run single for San Diego in front of a sellout crowd of 15,206 at Sloan Park in Mesa. Hammel gave up three hits and did not walk a batter. The right-hander complimented catcher Miguel Montero, saying he didn’t shake him off once. Hammel has gotten on track since a side session when he threw 42 fastballs, and only fastballs.
During the regular season, Hammel’s strikeout high was eight, which he did in back to back starts May 31 and June 6.
“It’s Spring Training,” Hammel said of all his K’s. “Don’t start calling me a punch-out guy yet. I still want to use the sinker.”
— Carrie Muskat
Joe Maddon has quizzed the Cubs “brainiac” department regarding the pros and cons of having the pitcher bat eighth, and on Sunday, he tested it with Jason Hammel. It won’t be the last time.
“Our lineup should be relatively thick up and down,” Maddon said of the potential for offensive output. “Whoever is hitting in front of the pitcher will be at a disadvantage. If there’s one of those last two guys in the lineup who you like a lot in regards to maybe getting on base and being a pretty good hitter, it would be advantageous to us and to him to hit him ninth.”
If the pitcher is expected to go deep in a game, like Jon Lester, he will likely bat ninth. Maddon asked the Cubs baseball operations people to analyze the options and present the percentages.
“I really try to take in all the information possible,” Maddon said. “I do believe we have some guys who make it make sense.”
— Carrie Muskat
A fastball-only side session helped Jason Hammel get back on track as the Cubs pitcher posted his best outing this spring, limiting the Royals to two hits over four innings in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory. Hammel struck out three and did not walk a batter in his third spring start. He credited a bullpen with pitching coach Chris Bosio for getting him back on track. During the workout, he threw 42 pitches, all fastballs, to work on his command.
Hammel also got some help from manager Joe Maddon who employed a couple key defensive shifts.
“Today, I got a little taste of Joe’s shifts because we had Starlin [Castro] up the middle on a hard-hit ball and Javy [Baez] made a great play to knock a ball down,” Hammel said. “That’s what I do is put the ball in play.”
He wasn’t worried about the early struggles.
“I have plenty of confidence in myself to get it done and be ready and today was a step towards that,” he said.
The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the third as Dexter Fowler walked, Chris Denorfia singled and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch. Danny Duffy then walked Castro to force in a run. Duffy struck out five over four innings.
Alcides Escobar doubled to open the Royals sixth against Jorge De Leon and scored one out later on Lorenzo Cain’s double. But Miguel Montero led off the Chicago sixth with a double and pinch-runner Billy McKinney then scored on Junior Lake’s single.
* Up next: Jake Arrieta makes his third spring start on Wednesday when the Cubs travel to Glendale to face the Dodgers. So far, Arrieta has given up one earned run over six innings in his two outings, sriking out five. Manager Joe Maddon indicated they will abandon the designated hitter from now on. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT.
— Carrie Muskat
Here’s Tuesday’s Cubs lineup:
Here’s the Cubs lineup vs. the Angels Thursday:
If you’re in the Chicago area, you can watch the game on MLB Network.