Chicago Cubs: Cole Hamels set to make his Cubs debut in Pittsburgh

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Left-hander Cole Hamels makes his first start for the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night against the surging Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

In what many Chicago Cubs fans will hail as a momentous occasion, Cole Hamels will take the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. Momentous, you ask? Not so much because Hamels makes his Cubs debut, but rather, because it marks the end of Tyler Chatwood‘s time in the rotation.

After watching the latter labor virtually every time he took the mound, Chicago is hoping the veteran Hamels can bring some stability to the rotation. Chatwood averaged 8.1 walks per nine – outpacing his 7.9 strikeouts – causing near-endless headaches every five days.

So, while some are skeptical of Hamels’ ability to improve the rotation, I think you’d be mistaken to be so. The lefty has averaged 3.3 walks per nine – but has struggled to keep the ball in the yard. His home-road splits suggest a move from Arlington could pay huge dividends for Hamels, but time will tell.

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His battery mate, All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, is excited to learn from a guy who brings years of big league experience to the mound. And the feeling is mutual.

"“That will be exciting in itself,” Hamels said last weekend. “We’ll try to get our lingo down, our mannerisms and the anticipation of what we want to do.”"

Hamels has pitched extraordinarily well in his career at PNC Park. He carries a 1.22 ERA in five outings in Pittsburgh – but there are some guys who have had his number, as well.

Outfielder Starling Marte is hitting .400 against Hamels in 15 at-bats, Josh Harrison has squared him up to a .375 clip and David Freese clocks in at .333 in nine ABs. Of the three, only Marte has taken Hamels deep.

All eyes will be on the Cubs’ biggest deadline acquisition Wednesday night, as Chicago looks to reclaim sole possession of first place in the National League Central. With a Cubs’ loss and Brewers win on Tuesday, the two teams are, once again, deadlocked atop the division.

The teams have jockeyed for prime position in the Central all season. A 4-6 stretch over their last 10, paired with a 7-3 run by Milwaukee has the Cubs once again locked in what will undoubtedly be a battle that spans the next two months.

So what are some keys for Hamels and the Cubs tonight?

The team needs depth from the veteran. And, if you look at the numbers over the years, he seems like the guy to give it. He’s amassed a minimum of 200 innings pitched in eight of his 13 MLB campaigns and pitched into the sixth in nine of his last 13 outings.

Chicago starters’ inability to eat innings prompted the team to acquire both Jesse Chavez, a teammate of Hamels in Texas, and Brandon Kintzler from Washington in recent weeks. But if Hamels can lead by example and step up, it could go a long way in giving guys like Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson a blow here and there.

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Don’t expect Hamels to take the mound and turn in a no-no. He’s not the guy he was in Philadelphia. But don’t be shocked to see him turn in a quality start and give the Cubs all they need – a chance to win.