Hammel falters while Lester shines again, Ross Shows Old-Man Strength on ESPN Sunday Night Game

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 154
Every opportunity for Jason Hammel to pitch before the end of the regular season is an audition to make the playoff roster. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to provide a repeat performance of his last game and struggled significantly against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday afternoon in their 10-4 loss. Hammel gave up six runs on six hits while only making it through 2.1 innings. He gave up four runs in the first inning, which dug the team into a hole that they could not get out of despite a valiant effort by the offense.

The loss was his third against St. Louis in the second half of the season. Hammel really needed to have a good outing to earn a place in the playoff rotation. However, it is safe to say that if the Cubs faced the Cardinals in October Hammel wouldn’t see much action with the way they have hit him over these past three starts.

The Cubs offense showed some life as Ben Zobrist had a two-run triple and Willson Contreras hit his 11thhomer run on the season. Dexter Fowler also had a good day at the plate as he 3-5 with a single, double, and a triple in his first three at-bats. Fowler had two shots to complete the cycle, but fell short.

Game 155
The Cubs were looking for a series win against the Cardinals on ESPN’s Sunday Night Game to not only earn their 99th win of the season, but to win their 57th game at Wrigley Field which would be an organization record. Luckily for the Cubs they had Jon Lester going who happened to have a 9-0 record with a 1.46 ERA in the second half of the season. Lester once again stepped up and delivered another gem of a game. He ended up pitching six plus innings, limiting the Cardinals to three hits while striking out seven batters.

The win gave Lester a record of 19-4 and lowered his ERA to 2.28. He is now 10-0 with a 1.34 ERA since the All-Star break. Now Joe Maddon will have to make the difficult decision as to whether or not to give Lester an opportunity for win number 20.

David Ross was playing in his last regular season home game at Wrigley Field and the fans came out and showed their appreciation by giving him a standing ovation before his first at-bat. To show his appreciation, Ross delivered a goose-bump producing moment with a home run in the fifth inning. The home run brought the fans to their feet once again. Jon Lester showed why he is one of the classiest people in baseball by requesting Maddon to lift Ross in the middle of the seventh inning so the fans could show their appreciation one last time.

Addison Russell delivered an RBI double in the sixth inning, which was his 94th RBI on the season. Zobrist was also instrumental in the win by going 3-4 with two runs.

The bullpen also performed well. Carl Edwards, Jr. came in on the seventh with one on and two outs and got a much needed strikeout after walking a batter. Justin Grimm came in on the eighth and despite getting into a little trouble and giving up a run managed to induce a fly out to end the inning and not surrender the lead. Aroldis Chapman followed by entering the game in the ninth to record his 16th save as a Cub.

Outlook: The Cubs will conclude the 2016 regular season with a four game series in Pittsburgh to play the Pirates and then head to Cincinnati to play the final three games of the season against the Reds. Joe Maddon announced that he will have Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, and Jake Arrieta pitch and then have the bullpen pitch the entire game on Thursday.

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