Cole Hamels' dominant start to his Cubs career continued on Friday in stellar fashion, and with some considerable help from his infield.
The 34-year-old veteran not only pitched seven innings of five-hit ball without allowing a run, but induced five ground ball double plays. The Cubs finished with a staggering seven double plays in a 1-0 win at the Pirates on Friday.
.@EliasSports says: The #Cubs tied a modern record tonight by turning SEVEN double plays in a 9-inning game.— Matt Kelly (@mattkellyMLB) August 18, 2018
That had only happened twice before:
8/14/1942 -- Yankees (vs. A's)
5/4/1969 -- Astros (vs. Giants) @Cubs
The last time the Cubs turned five double plays was in 1985.
All five hits Hamels gave up were groundball singles. The 16 groundballs induced is the most for a Cubs pitcher this year.
After Hamels exited after seven innings, the Cubs got double plays in the eighth, on a line drive double play with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, and ninth, on a groundball induced by Jesse Chavez to end the game.
Hamels was initially brought in to provide depth to a struggling rotation and ease the pain of Yu Darvish being unavailable. But Hamels has now started an honest debate over who should be the Cubs' starter in Game 1 of the postseason. He has been otherworldly since joining the Cubs, with an 0.72 ERA, three wins and one no-decision (the Cubs won and he had nine strikeouts).
The 1-0 win over the Pirates gives the Cubs more breathing room in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, pushing the Cubs lead to 4.5 games in the division.
And the Hamels hot-streak comes at an excellent time for the North Siders, who took in Jon Lester's gem of an outing on Thursday, where he went six innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts in a win against the Pirates. The Cubs starting pitching seems to be turning the corner, and with three straight series against sub-.500 teams following their series in Pittsburgh, this could be the beginning of a great run of outings that carries the Cubs confidently into the postseason.