Jason Hammel & Chicago Cubs Sweep Reds for Best Season Start in Franchise History

With Jason Hammel on the mound, the Chicago Cubs played their usual game of solid defense, patience at the plate, and hitting home runs. Scoring first with a solo blast from Kris Bryant in the second, the Cubs went ahead and never looked back. They have now scored more points in the first eight games of a season than any Cubs team in history.

The night before, the team defeated the Cincinnati Reds 9-2, tying the franchise record for the best start of a season with the 1985 Cubs. Only the 1969 Cubs, who went 11-1 to start their season, have more wins – these guys have twice as many runs. There are a lot of stories about this team, and this season already out that include the words “best since,” or “best ever,” or “team record,” and they have barely started.

They broke a long time streak of losing home openers this season, and have only glitched once, dropping a game to the Arizona Diamondbacks. They are outscoring their opponents at a crazy rate, drawing a lot of walks and driving starting pitchers out early with high pitch counts.

Hammel looked sharp. There were several times he pitched himself into what appeared to be trouble, but he found his way through all of them. Dexter Fowler made an absolutely beautiful backhand catch at a full run in the top of the 7th inning. The defense is solid.

With Kris Bryant in left field, Tommy La Stella played third, and there was at least one play down the line that Bryant might have fielded, had he been at his normal spot, but it caused no lasting damage.

This is a relentless offense, and a locked-in defense, apparently focused on silencing all the doubters who still seem to think “some year soon, but not this year”.

The Cubs opened up the floodgates in the 8th, scoring five unanswered runs starting with walks drawn by Bryant and Jorge Soler, aided by a bloop single by Miguel Montero. Addison Russell singled and drove in a run. More were forced in by walks. When the dust cleared, the Cubs lead 8-0.

Travis Wood and Pedro Strop came in to pitch perfect three up, three down 7th and 8th innings, and Justin Grimm, while he faced five batters and gave up the Reds’ lone run, closed the game.

A lot of questions are being answered, and the answers are followed by exclamation points. Jason Hammel was strong. Bryant hit his second home run. The lineup, as usual, scored relentlessly, relying on a variety of contributors, great strategy and base running. The bullpen came through and held on.

Way too early to call this anything but a very good start, but it’s equally difficult not to get excited about this 2016 Cubs team.

The Dave & Gizmo’s Chicago Cubs Page Player of the Game (the award no one knows about) goes to Jason Hammel for a very solid performance. He picked off a runner in the first inning. He held the Reds scoreless over seven innings. He got a hit, and advanced a runner in an earlier at-bat. It was a great game for “Hammertime” Hammel, and another solid win for Joe Maddon and his Chicago Cubs.

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