Hammel continued his love affair with Miller Park. When he most recently pitched here, on April 27, he did not give up a hit until one out into the sixth. The Brewers didn't wait that long Saturday, collecting a single with two outs in the first, but they mustered only four hits off the right-hander over seven innings.
"He set the tone and gave us seven really, really good innings," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He kept the ball down, mixed up his pitches, very calm, very poised. He's a veteran. He commands his emotions and is very meticulous in his preparations and just attacks the hitters."
Hammel started the day ranked third in the Major Leagues in WHIP (at 0.90), trailing the Reds' Johnny Cueto (0.75) and the Giants' Tim Hudson (0.88). The Cubs starter, who obviously likes pitching at Miller Park, struck out a season-high eight batters and did not walk anyone.
"His ERA's low, and for a reason," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "The fastballs are 93-94 [mph]. He hits 95 when he wants to. It's got a great angle because he's tall, and I think he's got an outstanding breaking ball. I can see where he would give a lot of teams trouble."
Whether the right-hander will still be pitching for the Cubs after the Trade Deadline remains to be seen.
"I know my own value," Hammel said. "My value is here for the Cubs, and that's the way I see it. I'm not going to play into the trade talk -- it is what it is. The only way you can't get traded in baseball is if you have a no-trade clause. It can happen to anybody."
Rizzo apparently benefitted from the respite. Emilio Bonifacio singled to lead off the Chicago fourth, and he was safe at second on Junior Lake's grounder despite a challenge from Roenicke. Rizzo then smacked a 3-2 pitch from Wily Peralta into the right-field seats for his ninth homer and a 2-0 lead.
Rizzo didn't ask for the day, but he took advantage of it.
"It was nice to be able to watch the game [Friday] and slow the game down, slow life down a little bit," Rizzo said. "I just watched the game and enjoyed it. When you're in game mode all the time and full speed, and you get to kick back and watch from the dugout, it's always a nice feeling."
It wasn't that Rizzo needed time to heal aches and pains.
"I don't think in baseball it's as much a physical day off as a mental day off," Renteria said.
"I certainly don't want days off," Rizzo said. "I want to push to be in there every day, as much as I can. If the time comes where I need a day, then whenever that is, you don't think about it that much.
"Having a day off is kind of weird," he said. "I didn't know what to do with myself."
He knew what to do at the plate. Hammel singled to lead off the Chicago sixth, and two outs later, Rizzo launched his second homer of the game, again off a 3-2 pitch from Peralta, to put the Cubs ahead, 4-0. It was Rizzo's fifth career multihomer game and his first since Aug. 21 against the Nationals.
Starlin Castro followed Rizzo with a double, and Nate Schierholtz walked to chase Peralta. Zach Duke took over and served up RBI singles to Chris Coghlan and John Baker, as well as an RBI double to Darwin Barney as Chicago opened a 7-0 lead.
The Cubs closed the month of May at 11-16, no improvement over one year ago, when they were 13-14. What has Renteria seen in the first two months?
"More than anything, it's two-pronged," he said. "One is, 'How are the individuals progressing and what are the improvements they've made over the course of the first two months?' And second is, 'What do they have to continue to do to get better?'"
The starting pitching has been solid. The offense, though, has had some "ups and downs," Renteria said. Friday was a downer as the Brewers collected 16 hits, a season high off Chicago pitchers, in an 11-5 win. Yet Renteria saw positives as the Cubs scored two runs in the ninth.
"For me, one of the things I want to see a team do is not quit," Renteria said. "Ultimately, the players have to go out there and perform. I think we're chipping away at it. Are we where we want to be? Certainly not."
Renteria is focused on the task at hand.
"How we're judged in the end, I really don't concern myself too much with it because I have to worry about what's going on here right now," Renteria said. "If I start worrying about how I'll be judged or will I be judged, that's happening every single day. It's done by everybody -- the media, the fans, the front office. I can't control that. I can only control the things I try to do. In the end, what I am or not, or what we are as a team or not, will be judged by everybody else."