9 times: Cubs top Halos for season-high win streak
By Carrie Muskat and Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- The Cubs continued their hot streak and remained unbeaten in August, winning their ninth straight game Wednesday night with a 3-1 Interleague victory over the Angels at Wrigley Field, thanks to Jason Hammel. It's the first time the Cubs have opened a calendar month 8-0 since August 1927.
"I've never been on a team this good before," Hammel said. "It's kind of silly to go out and watch the guys do their work and how consistent they are. You know something good is going to happen, you really do. We expect to win, and if you don't, you turn the page."
Hammel held the Angels to four hits over seven innings, and also singled and scored on Dexter Fowler's double in the fifth. Cubs starting pitchers have fueled the winning streak, and have posted eight straight quality starts, going 7-0 with a 1.06 ERA. Hammel is unbeaten in his last five starts, giving up four earned runs over 31 innings for a 1.16 ERA.
Ricky Nolasco, making his second start with the Angels since he was acquired from the Twins at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, took the loss, striking out six and scattering six hits over six innings.
"That's the way he can pitch," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think we're excited to see that. He had command of his sinker. He really spun the ball well with a couple different breaking balls, and that's when he's at his best. That was a very encouraging start."
Addison Russell added a solo homer in the eighth as Chicago -- now 30 games over .500 at 71-41 -- swept the four games against the Angels this season, and improved to 13-4 in Interleague action.
Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth to lock down his fourth save since joining the Cubs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bryzzo: Nolasco had to run the bases in the Angels' third, but it didn't seem to affect the pitcher when he took the mound for the Chicago third, striking out the first two batters he faced. Kris Bryant then doubled and scored on Anthony Rizzo's single that second baseman Gregorio Petit knocked down in shallow right. It was Rizzo's 81st RBI.
Back on track: Nolasco, a former Cubs prospect, showed why the Angels acquired him. After allowing five runs in six innings against the A's last week in his Angels debut, he rebounded with a solid outing to keep the Angels in the game for his six innings of work. Nolasco left the game trailing by two runs, and threw 64 of his 102 pitches for strikes, walking just one.
Despite taking his first loss against the Cubs in five career starts, Nolasco felt good about his night, giving him a confidence boost heading into his next start.
"I was able to limit the few mistakes that I made last game [against the A's]," he said. "Not an easy lineup to face at all, so I basically had to make pitches the whole night. I thought we did a good job just concentrating on that, and I was able to make some pretty big pitches when I needed to."
Looking for relief:Pedro Strop took over for Hammel in the eighth, and he slid on his left leg to field an infield grounder by Yunel Escobar leading off the inning. Strop got to his feet, but was in pain. Cubs manager Joe Maddon and athletic trainer Ed Halbur came out to check on the pitcher, and then helped him off the field. Strop was not putting any weight on his left leg as he exited, and will undergo an MRI on his left knee on Thursday. The Cubs are shorthanded with Hector Rondon sidelined because of tightness in his triceps.
"It would change the entire complexion of the group," Maddon said of his bullpen if Strop is not available. "We'll have to look at different folks."
Busy guy: As usual, Mike Trout was in the middle of the action at the plate and in center field. Offensively, he went 1-for-4, was the lead runner on a perfectly executed double steal in the fourth, and struck out on a check swing in the eighth with no outs and the tying runs in scoring position. Defensively, he made six putouts, including all three in the fifth.
"The atmosphere's great," Trout said of playing at Wrigley Field. "The fans are awesome. They were obviously rooting against us, but they were having fun doing it. It was a good time these last two nights. Obviously, we lost, but the atmosphere was great."
"From a baseball purist's perspective, we're playing baseball well. You're getting great starting pitching and timely hitting and extraordinary defense. That's a nice formula to win at any level. Our guys are coming out ready, nobody's taking anything for granted. We're going day by day -- I'm loving all that." -- Maddon
"I've been to a few ballparks where the visiting player throws a ball in the stands, they might throw it back. So, you've got to select who you give that ball to." -- Trout, on not giving a ball to Cubs fans in the bleachers after a running catch in the fifth.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who's been pitching out of the bullpen since July 1, will get the first opportunity to fill the fifth-starter's role left vacant by Tim Lincecum's demotion to the Minors. Chacin, who posted a 2.55 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Angels, will make his third career start against the Indians on Thursday to open a four-game series at Progressive Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. PT.
Cubs: The Cubs open a four-game series against their division rivals, the Cardinals, on Thursday. Jon Lester will get it started, making his first start against St. Louis this season. The lefty has won his last three decisions, including a win over the Athletics in his last start, in which he gave up two runs over seven innings. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.