Weathering the elements, Hammel delivers for Cubs

Weathering the elements, Hammel delivers for Cubs

CHICAGO -- The right hamstring that cramped and caused Jason Hammel to leave his last start after two innings is fine. So is the arm that has him 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA. And whatever you do, don't discount Hammel's bat -- it's not bad, either.

Hammel threw seven strong innings to lead the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the D-backs on Saturday at a rainy Wrigley Field. He also added a two-out, two-run single in the fourth inning that put the Cubs ahead.

"Another good day for Jason," manager Joe Maddon said.

Cut4: Hammel's two-run single bounces off second

It didn't exactly start that way.

As rain fell onto the field near game time, Hammel had a hard time gripping the ball, saying he almost launched two of his warmup pitches to the backstop. In the first inning, he left a 1-0 fastball over the plate and Jake Lamb turned it into a two-run home run. But that was the only hit Arizona got against the right-hander.

"I just tried to stay with it, [tried] to command the ball in the strike zone and [hoped] the rain would calm down," Hammel said.

Hammel used that tried-and-true recipe to go seven innings as the rain slowed, allowing only the two runs on that lone hit and two walks. He also added six strikeouts and proved again he is not the typical pitcher.

Hammel has spent time trying to correct the flaws in his own scouting report as a hitter, and he's worked with pitching coach Chris Bosio to identify his weaknesses and how pitchers might approach him.

Hammel's two-run single

In the fourth inning, D-backs starter Edwin Escobar intentionally walked David Ross, then missed with a first-pitch slider to Hammel. Hammel then started thinking ahead.

"I don't want to be an out at the plate," Hammel said. "Just going up there, I try to rule things out. Not that I can think like a hitter, but I try to. First-pitch slider, you don't want to go 2-0 as a pitcher, so I figured he's coming heater."

Hammel got that fastball and hit it up the middle, where it bounced off and over second base and a diving Jean Segura to bring in two runs and give the Cubs the lead.

Hammel now has seven RBIs this season, second to Adam Wainwright's eight among all pitchers. Consider this: Hammel's batting-average number (.269) is higher than his ERA (2.14).

In another Cubs win full of charm and character -- Travis Wood getting Rickie Weeks Jr. to line out to a perfectly positioned Ben Zobrist with the bases loaded in the eighth and Anthony Rizzo's insurance homer in the home half serving as perfect examples -- nothing was more indicative of the Cubs' success this season than Hammel.

"Guys come in ready to play every day," Maddon said. "I think the residue of that is things like that occur. We're on a pretty good streak, but we're not just conceding."

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.