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Cole Hamels still hasn't even been in a Cubs uniform for a full calendar year, but he continues to add to his already eye-popping resume.

After shutting down the Cardinals for eight innings in the Cubs' 3-1 win Friday, Hamels has now permitted just 1 earned run in 22 frames against the division rivals dating back to last season. Fifteen of those innings have come over the last week, as Hamels faced the Cardinals in back-to-back starts and allowed only a lone unearned run in that span.

It is a continuation of the incredible success the Cubs rotation has had the last nine games, posting a 1.96 ERA and 0.80 WHIP while surrendering 3 or fewer runs each time out:

Cubs starters have been averaging nearly 7 innings an outing in that span, taking a huge burden off the bullpen.

Everybody is understandably buzzing about the eventual addition of Craig Kimbrel to the relief corps, but with starting pitching like this, it sets everybody up for success and could be the real key to the Cubs' season.

"All five of our guys, if you look at them all, legitimately nobody's a No. 5 starter and probably nobody's a 4 starter, either," Joe Maddon said. "I believe the starting pitching is the engine that's gonna drive the vehicle, absolutely."

 

Friday's outing extended Hamels' career record as a Cub to 9-5 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 148 strikeouts in 154 innings across 25 starts. 

He also continues to perform well at Wrigley Field, dipping his career line on Chicago's North Side to 1.83 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 128 innings.

Right now, it feels like almost anybody could be considered the Cubs' ace. 

Both Hamels and Jon Lester have gotten through a tough stretch and look lights out once again. Kyle Hendricks has a 2.09 ERA since the beginning of May. Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish are both throwing the ball about as well as we've seen them in a Cubs uniform.

After the game, Hamels admitted that the Cubs rotation is feeding off each other right now — the same way a red-hot lineup helps make everybody on the offense feel like they're seeing the ball well.

"When one guy does well, the next guy wants to do better," Hamels said. "It's kind of the internal friendly team competition that we have inside us to prove to each other that we can do it, too. I think you can see it when you have all four of us sitting and watching. We're encouraging that.

"We want our teammates to do better, because I think that's what it promotes — just that positivity. And you have guys who are pretty good at what they do. Any extra positive reinforcement is just gonna make us even better. 

"That's what we want — we all want to win every game, we want guys to win 20 games and go 200 innings and strike out everybody. We want that and I think you can feel it."