Chicago Cubs: Jason Hammel tosses eight-plus in win


90. 4. 9. Final. 2

Herrera adds clutch hit late for insurance

Right-hander Jason Hammel continued his masterful start to the season, tossing eight-plus innings of two-run ball as the Chicago Cubs evened the series with the Washington Nationals Saturday with a  4-2 win.

Hammel (5-2) was given the shot to go the distance by skipper Joe Maddon, but after Bryce Harper clubbed his Major League-leading 19th home run of the year to open the frame, closer Hector Rondon took over.

Rondon walked the first batter he faced in Anthony Rendon, prompting Maddon to turn things over to Pedro Strop, who closed the door for the Cubs, preserving the win for Hammel.

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In the Cubs’ half of the ninth, Jonathan Herrera, who started at second base alongside Addison Russell at short with Starlin Castro enjoying an off-day, blooped a single to center, scoring Miguel Montero and extending the Chicago lead to 4-2.

Chicago (29-25) trailed 1-0 early on, but Kris Bryant pulled his team even in the fourth when he singled to score Dexter Fowler. One inning later, it was Fowler who gave the Cubs the lead for good with a run-scoring single.

One night after going yard twice, Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo lined his 17th double of the season off Joe Ross in the top of the fifth, as well, pushing his club’s lead to 3-1.

Ross, who was making his big league debut, set down the first nine batters he faced, but Chicago was able to figure him out the second time through the lineup – with three runs in the middle innings.

For Maddon and the Cubs, the most glaring issue – as it has been for much of the 2015 season – is the relief corps. With Rondon struggling mightily of-late and no clear-cut replacement in the wings, it may be time to look at Triple-A Iowa or to the trade market for other options in the bullpen.

Next: Get ready for the Russell-Castro rumors again