A Tip of the Recap – 8/10 (Cubs 3, Angels 1)

Cubs Record: 71-41

W: Jason Hammel (12-5, 2.90)

L: Ricky Nolasco (4-9, 5.14)

S: Aroldis Chapman (24)

MVP: C.J. Edwards

In the finale of a brief two-game set, the Cubs sent Jason Hammel to the mound looking to complete the season sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.

Chicago struck first in this one thanks to some two-out magic by the Bryzzo Souvenir Co. In the bottom of the 3rd, Kris Bryant doubled on a line drive to left field and was brought home when Anthony Rizzo singled to right to beat the shift, giving the Cubs an early 1-0 lead.

The Cubs tacked on another run in the bottom of the 5th. Hammel lofted a one-out single into right and later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Dexter Fowler then hit a double down the third base line to drive in Hammel and make it 2-0 Chicago.

In the top of the 8th, the Angels mounted their best scoring threat of the game, putting runners at second and third with nobody out and the heart of the order coming up. C.J. Edwards came in and was able to limit the damage, however, holding Los Angeles to a single run, making it a 2-1 ballgame.

With the game feeling a little too close for comfort, Addision Russell responded in the bottom half of the 8th by depositing a solo home run into the left-center field bleachers, giving the Cubs a 3-1 advantage.

Aroldis Chapman came on in the top of the 9th and had no problems with the Angels, striking out the side to give the Cubs their ninth straight win.

The Good

Since the All-Star break, the Cubs’ starting rotation has strung together some impressive outings and Hammel kept that going Wednesday night.

[beautifulquote align=”right”]Don’t look now, but Hammel is starting to put that second-half narrative of his to bed.[/beautifulquote]

The Angels may not be the most powerful offensive club around (Mike Trout not withstanding), but Hammel did a good job keeping them off balance most of the night. The veteran right-hander threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out six. His command was good, his breaking ball had solid movement and he kept his pitches down in the zone, inducing 11 groundouts.

Don’t look now, but Hammel is starting to put that second-half narrative of his to bed. In five post-break starts, Hammel has gone 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA, 0.936 WHIP and 27 strikeouts over 31 innings. While it is just five starts, his results during this stretch have largely followed how he has actually pitched. He’s not getting lucky, he’s simply pitching very well.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the job Edwards did in a critical spot in the 8th.

With runners at second and third with nobody out and the Cubs clinging to a 2-0 lead, Edwards fanned Trout, got Pujols to hit an RBI ground out to second and then got Andrelton Simmons on a grounder to short. That was as tough a spot as you could throw a reliever into and Edwards did a tremendous job to escape with the lead intact.

The Bad

The ball did not seem to carry very well Wednesday night, much to the detriment of the Cubs’ offense. Chicago made solid contact off Los Angeles starter Ricky Nolasco all night long but had several well-struck balls just die in the air.

The Ugly

So, that Pedro Strop injury. Ugh.

With Hector Rondon nursing a mysterious triceps injury, the last thing the Cubs needed was for Strop to get injured. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened when the right-hander tweaked his knee fielding a dribbler down the third base line. After sliding to make the play, Strop came up limping and put almost no weight on his leg when he was eventually helped off the field.

While the extent and severity of the injury is unknown at this point, let’s hope it’s nothing too serious. Losing Strop for any extended period of time (or *gulp* the playoffs) would obviously be a major blow to the bullpen.

Coming Attractions

The Cubs will kickoff a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night at Wrigley Field. Chicago will look to lefty Jon Lester (12-4, 2.93) to keep the winning streak going, while the Cardinals will counter with right-hander Carlos Martinez (10-7, 3.29). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. (CST).

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