By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — It had been four starts and 24 days since Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel felt like Jason Hammel. On Sunday in a 9-3 win against the Braves, he got all the runs he needed with a long-ball barrage by his teammates that included two home runs by Kris Bryant and five total by the offense on another day with the Wrigley Field wind blowing out.READ MORE: Mayor Lightfoot Delays General Iron Permit To Move To South Side Over EPA Concerns
Hammel was in the closest thing to a doghouse that the uber-positive Joe Maddon has in his managing trick bag. Hammel hadn’t made it past 75 pitches in his prior three outings. In two of those starts, he had a lead before getting the hook without completing five innings.
“Being a professional, you check your ego at the door,” Hammel insisted after his 6 1/3-inning outing and 104 pitches. “I am not here just me thinking about getting my innings. I know I am better than that (previous three games). There was no reason to stand up for myself. I just wanted to work through it. It was about me being a competitor and Joe dealing with what he had in the moment.”
The Cubs are 16-4 in August, tied for the best record in the month with the Blue Jays entering play on Sunday. The team has swept four four-game series for the first time since 1945, which was the last time they were in the World Series.
Bryant’s hot hitting has been a boost.READ MORE: Chicago Night Clubs Gear Up For Looser COVID-19 Restrictions As State Prepares To Enter Bridge Phase
“I am not the guy who looks into numbers,” said Bryant, who now has 19 home runs and 74 RBIs. “Anytime you can sweep one four-game series a year that is pretty good. To do it four times, I think that says a lot about the team. We keep our foot on the gas pedal. We take every game as a one-game series.”
Chicago is a season-high 20 games over .500 and just three wins from surpassing its entire win total of 2014. Four of the team’s five home runs were hit to the opposite field, belying the idea it was all about the wind blowing out.
“Are we playing the elements? I don’t know,” Maddon said. “The guys can certainly hit it the other way. That is really a part of their game. That is why they are such good hitters and see so many pitches. They will use the other field.”
The win over the Braves was the Cubs’ seventh series sweep of the season. Chicago has a National League-high 51 home runs since the All-Star break.MORE NEWS: Saint Joseph Catholic School Principal On Administrative Duty After Former Teacher Charged With Child Sex Crimes
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.