Chicago Cubs: Is Jason Hammel pitching for his playoff life?


The Chicago Cubs won’t need all five starters in the NLDS. This is fact. So will Jason Hammel have a spot? Even in the bullpen?

There’s no questioning the improvements that the Chicago Cubs‘ Jason Hammel has made this season. Many of us expected to see him collapse right out of the second-half gate. But he didn’t. He won six decisions in a row. He pushed his record to 13-5 with a win against the Brewers on August 16. Maybe the new Hammel and his potato chips had worked.

Then the bottom fell out for Hammel. He was shelled in Colorado for six runs on 10 hits. Not a big deal. This is Denver we’re talking about. The next start was the outing in which Joe Maddon pulled Hammel in the third inning. Once again their relationship appeared to be rocky as Hammel was none too pleased with the hook. He won his next start against Pittsburgh on Aug. 31 as he allowed just one earned run over six innings.

In his next start against Milwaukee, Maddon didn’t pull him too soon. In fact, he left him out there to take his lumps. Hammel allowed nine runs (8 ER) and thirteen hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers. Most believe it was because Maddon didn’t want to burn up the bullpen. But some have read between the lines, that maybe Maddon left him out there intentionally.

Is it too late for Hammel?

Whichever the case, Hammel is fighting for his spot on the NLDS roster. As it stands now, I don’t see him making it. He’s been a solid pitcher this season, posting a 3.60 ERA in 157 1/3 innings with a 14-9 record. But with just a handful of starts to go, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks have been the most consistent. No, Jake Arrieta was not an oversight. He’s struggled this season, but his spot is likely a foregone conclusion.

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If Maddon was to take a fourth starter, right now it would be Lackey. He’s had a few appearances warming up late in games, but he’s not pitched out of the bullpen. Lackey has had a history of pitching and winning big playoff games. It’s not all about reputation, but Lackey has proven his year after year. Maddon is going to have him on the playoff roster in some form.

Hammel’s been a huge part of this team and its success. But in reality, you could say that about every player on this roster. Everyone has contributed in some way. But even then, not everyone can be on the playoff roster. Hammel may have to be content as a cheerleader this postseason, at least in the first-round.

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He’ll have another opportunity tonight at Wrigley Field against the Cincinnati Reds to give Maddon a reason to consider. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. CT. The game will be carried on CSN-Chicago, and the radio broadcast will be on 670 The Score.