Jason Hammel could be starting the biggest game of the year for the Cubs.
Joe Maddon announced Monday that Hammel will get the ball in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals.
It's something of a second chance for the 33-year-old starter, who was the Cubs' clear No. 3 starter earlier in the season but endured struggles for the entire second half of the season and saw 25-year-old Kyle Hendricks get the ball in a pivotal Game 2 on Saturday in St. Louis.
The Cubs have already ruled out starting Jon Lester on short rest for Game 4, meaning Hammel will get the nod in a contest where the Cubs could clinch a spot in the NLCS.
"Referring to the pressure, I feel like pressure is what you make of it," Hammel said. "Honestly, yeah, it could be a big game, but I've done this a few times now in the postseason and I understand that it's just another ballgame.
"I have to approach it that way, and I know the guys in the clubhouse will be, too. I've been preparing for this game since my last outing in Cincinnati, so I've had a little bit of time to think about it. I'll be ready to go."
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Hammel put up a 2.89 ERA in his first 16 starts of the season, striking out 104 batters in 102 2/3 innings and even drawing an All-Star endorsement from Maddon at one point in June.
Hammel suffered a hamstring injury July 8, and since then, he has put up a 5.50 ERA in 15 starts. He's racked up just two quality starts in that span, showing obvious frustration at times at Maddon's quick hook.
"It wasn't really a blow-up," Maddon said. "He was upset that he was taken out of games early because he's a starting pitcher and no starting pitcher likes that. I've probably had the same conversation with the other guys.
"Our relationship is actually really good. It always has been. I think he eventually understood why we did it and how it benefited everybody. So it's not been a problem at all. Zero."
Hammel said it was difficult to endure his tough second half, but he's felt better recently in large part due to a change in mindset.
"Obviously when you're not going right, it's hard to kind of get out of your own way," Hammel said. "But in those moments, you kind of have to tease yourself and almost trick yourself into thinking you are really good, even when you're not performing to what you know you can do.
"It wasn't like a light-bulb moment or anything like that, but I've been in the game long enough that I know if you beat yourself up, you're going to set yourself further back.
"Success in sports — anything, really — is confidence, and as long as I keep the confidence in myself, I'll be fine."
Hammel spun five shutout innings his last start of the season on Oct. 1 in Cincinnati. He's notched 15 postseason innings in his career, making stops with the Colorado Rockies (2009), Baltimore Orioles (2012) and then the Oakland A's last season.
He will need to rely on that experience in a crucial game against the Cardinals.
"I know that he's ready for the moment," Maddon said. "He feels very good about it. When you look at a guy like that, you know he's rested, that he can give you the innings necessary and he's pitched really well against these guys in the past, too.
"It's all there. I feel very good about it, actually. But regardless of what happened in the past, for me, that has nothing to do with anything. Those were things that had to be done at that particular moment.
"And those moments are dead and gone and you move on from there."