There are times where a true ace just puts a team on his back and carries them to a win. Jon Lester has been noted for this ability over time. So much so that many call him Big Bad Jon or maybe some other more profane nickname when he dominates as a stopper. This afternoon in Colorado Cole Hamels was not just Cole Freaking Hamels but Big Bad Cole. The Cubs handsome southpaw struck out nine hitters through seven shutout innings. He also drove in four runs and scored a run too. The veteran was wobbly in the first inning loading the bases with just one out, but was able to wiggle out of that and other jams through the first three innings. Big Bad Cole then locked in to pitch deep into the game to end the Cubs road losing skid.
Kyle Schwarber struck out swinging to start the game, but David Bote hit a ball up the middle for a single. Anthony Rizzo hit a flyball for the second out. Then Javy Báez continued the noted tradition of the athletic, power-hitting Cub shortstop enticed to swing at the eye high fastball. Javy's swinging K completed the fearful symmetry of the first inning.
Charlie Blackmon is so hot right now. He hit a clean single to start the Rockies first and best rally. Trevor Story struck out, but the sweet swinging David Dahl pulled another single. Cole Hamels lost Nolan Arenado on a changeup to load the bases, and the feeling was certainly here we go again. But Ian Desmond bounced the ball right to Javy who fired a strike for the force out at home. Mark Reynolds then watched a cutter nip the bottom corner to keep the score level at zero.
The Cubs hitters finally recalled that Coors has traditionally been a hitter friendly ballpark in the second. Carlos González revenge tour kicked off with a clean single to start it and Victor Caratini followed that up with a double. Jason Heyward looks to be heating back up and singled up the middle to drive in the pair thanks in part to the play of Ian Desmond. Cole Hamels then floated a single to keep the line moving. Addison Russell flew out to break up the streak of Cubs hit. Kyle Schwarber though learned his lesson from his first at bat and pounced all over the first pitch. It was a majestic homer that extended the Cubs lead to 5-0. Senzatela got Bote and Rizzo to pull easy groundball outs to end a standard Coors Field inning.
Brendan Rodgers grounded out to Javy to start the bottom half of the inning. Tony Wolters singled with one out to prevent Hamels from getting too comfortable, but Senzatela popped up the sacrifice bunt attempt that the Victory Carrot made a diving catch in foul territory well worth a second or third watch. Cole Hamels then struck out Blackmon for that much needed shutdown inning.
Javy worked the count and was able to deliver a lead off single in the third inning. CarGo worked the count full before earning the free pass. Caratini hit a bouncer right back up the middle that took Story right to the bag at second before he fired for the twin killing. Heyward was given the free pass to face Hamels who obliged with another groundball out to end the inning.
Hamels retired the first hitter in the bottom half of the frame, but Dahl hit a double for the Rockies first extra base hit of the game. Cole Hamels then decided to drill Nolan Arenado for all the times the Cubs star third sacker had been pummeled in Colorado. Ian Desmond bounced the ball to Bote who attempted to start an around the horn double play that was merely a fielder's choice. Mark Reynolds did the same to allow Hamels to wiggle out of another jam.
Senzatela threatened to give me an easy inning to reconstruct with two quick outs, but then he decided to throw three fastballs well inside to today's Cub third baseman David Bote. None came particularly close to striking Bote but none were anywhere near the strikezone either. The timing was suspicious since this was Bote's first plate appearance following the Arenado beanball but it was from a pitcher who was wild throughout the afternoon. It didn't matter much as Rizzo hit right into the shift for the final out. Cole Hamels helped me out though with a very quick 1-2-3 inning to send it to the fifth with the Cubs still holding a five run lead.
Arenado was pulled from the game to start the fifth due to being struck on the arm from Hamels earlier. Javy hit a ground ball right to second baseman Brendan Rodgers who misplayed it in every conceivable way to allow Báez to reach. CarGo hit a sky high floater that found the smallest patch of fair ground deep down the left field line. Javy read the play perfectly and was nearly to third by the time the ball landed. Senzatela lost any sense of the strike zone walking Caratini on four straight not particularly close pitches which ended Senzatela's afternoon. Bud Black brought in the lefty Jake McGee to face Heyward.
The fact that I am starting a new paragraph now should indicate to you about the efficacy of this move. The kryptonite that is left handed pitching to Heyward created a foul out to start, but Hamels helped his own cause once again with a two run single. Addison Russell reloaded the bases with a walk, and Kyle Schwarber hit the ball well enough to earn his fourth RBI on a sac fly to right. David Bote then struck out looking, and it appeared like only he, the umpire and Brian Butterfield was aware that was the final out of the inning for 60 seconds. Eventually the Rockies accepted that they had indeed finally achieved the requisite three outs to earn another opportunity to bat. An opportunity for David Dahl to rack up another hit it turned out, but Hamels cruised through another scoreless inning. McGee was able to do Hamels better with a quick 1-2-3 of his own in the sixth.
The game settled into a pitchers duel with Hamels matching McGee in the bottom of the sixth. The only drama Bryan Shaw faced in the seventh is the did he or didn't he mean to hit Cole Hamels with two outs. The pitch struck Hamels feet and for my money was not intentional. But the moment passed quickly and the game headed to the home half. Big Bad Cole worked around Chris Iannetta's pinch hit single in the seventh while remaining under a hundred pitches.
Real Deal Phillip Diehl was tossed back into the fire following Iannetta's insertion into the game. For the second game in a row, the Rockies one upped the Cubs catching tandem by moving Wolters from behind the dish to the keystone. Wolters made a nice reaction snag on David Bote's hard hit rocket for the second out. Diehl plunked Anthony Rizzo with the bases open which resulted in warnings finally being issued. The pitch looked the most like an intent pitch from the Rockies but seemed odd. Rizzo took second base for the best revenge legally available to him. It turned out to only save him 90 feet of trotting as Javy obliterated Diehl's low pitch to make it an even 10-0 lead. The Real Deal really did complete the eighth, but not before Javy's very loud exclamation point capped the victory.
The ten run lead provided a soft landing spot for two struggling relievers to get some work in. Or at least as soft of a landing spot as Coors Fields can provide. Kyle Ryan benefited from a Rockies team in a hurry to get this one over. A one pitch grounder back to the pitcher started the eighth. Ryan punched out McMahon but Desmond floated a single into shallow center to keep the inning alive. Reynolds hit the groundball Ryan was hunting for to send the game to the ninth. Caratini hit an impressive upper deck foul ball before rolling the ball under Story's glove to start the ninth. Jason Heyward photocopied it to bring Albert Almora Jr. to the plate with two on, but Almora bounced into a double play as he is wont to do. Russell kept things moving with his own ground out.
Brad Brach struck out Rodgers to start the ninth. Brach then hit Wolters on an 0-2 pitch and was thankfully not given the automatic ejection that usually occurs once warnings are issued. Wolters pulled a Rizzo by taking second and then third as well. He scored on a groundout to break up the shutout, but Brach struck out Ramiel Tapia to end the Cubs road woes.
Steve Cishek was injured on the field before the start of the game today. The yeoman reliever was struck in the lower leg by a baseball, but the news seems encouraging that it is merely a bruise. NBC Chicago showed some very grainy footage of that freak incident. That led Len and JD to quip about it being like the Zapruder film which gives me the flimsiest of excuses to use this from spring training.