Chicago Cubs: Is Jason Hammel the right call for Game 4?
After struggling in his NLDS start, is Jason Hammel the right choice for the Chicago Cubs in a pivotal Game 4 at Wrigley Field Wednesday night?
This is it, folks. The Cubs’ 97-win regular season, NL Wild Card victory and Division Series title all boil down to the outcome tonight – and, with a win, each subsequent game.
Following an, at times, sloppy Game 3 loss on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon and the Cubs are now backed into a corner and have no choice but to battle their way back from an 0-3 deficit in the best-of-seven series, something only one team has ever done – the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
The enormous responsibility of that task will be entrusted, at least initially, to veteran right-hander Jason Hammel – which, to many, is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Following his mid-season hamstring injury, the right-handed hurler’s make-up seemed to completely change, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation.
In one of my more recent pieces, I broke down what that injury meant to Hammel as the season progressed:
"Prior to the All-Star Break, the veteran right-hander was outstanding, giving the Chicago Cubs a more than reputable number three starter behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. However, post-Midsummer Classic, Hammel saw his earned run average spike to 5.10 from a sub-3.00 mark.More importantly, his starts required more and more from the Chicago bullpen: after the injury, Hammel pitched into the seventh inning in just one start – prior to the All-Star Game, he did so 10 times."
So an innings-eating arm capable of limiting opposing lineups to a handful of runs over seven or eight innings because a liability who demanded high workloads from Cubs’ relievers. His pitch location was an issue at-times, and it seemed like the leash Maddon had Hammel on grew shorter late in the season.
And, despite all this, he will get the ball in a must-win Game 4 Wednesday night.
In his lone start against Terry Collins‘ club this season, Hammel allowed just one run over eight innings of work in mid-May. That, as we’ve learned by this point, means nothing. Remember, New York went winless against Chicago over the course of seven games this season and hold a 3-0 edge in the NLCS.
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The best-case scenario is Hammel keeps the Mets off the board early and gets staked to an early lead by the offense that has come up short so far in the series. The trend of 27-straight innings without a leadoff base hit must draw to a close tonight and the bats of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo need to break out, as well.
I personally don’t expect any more than 3-to-4 innings from Hammel tonight; but if everything goes right, a five or six-inning outing would do wonders for a Chicago Cubs team that needs to build some sort of momentum if they plan on making history.
So here it is. All the apples are now in one basket for the Cubs – and Jason Hammel is the carrier of said basket.