CHICAGO -- Javier Báez made some impressive plays at third base, Matt Szczur delivered a key pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth inning and Jason Heyward blocked out the sun to make an acrobatic catch in right field in the ninth. But the key to the Cubs' win on Saturday
CHICAGO -- Javier Báez made some impressive plays at third base, Matt Szczur delivered a key pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth inning and Jason Heyward blocked out the sun to make an acrobatic catch in right field in the ninth. But the key to the Cubs' win on Saturday may have been the potato chips pitcher Jason Hammel ate.
Hammel had to leave his previous start on July 7 against the Braves after five-plus innings because of cramping in his right hand. So, the Cubs' team doctor called the right-hander over the All-Star break and suggested Hammel needed more potassium in his diet. His prescription? Potato chips. How many doctors suggest that?
On Saturday, Hammel held the Rangers to one run on three hits over six innings in the Cubs' 3-1 win. And he munched on chips between innings in the tunnel to the dugout.
"For my cramps, if it's a chronic thing, [the doctor] said, 'Potato chips,' because they have a lot of potassium and the sea salt helps retain water," Hammel said. "So I focused on that over the break and ate a lot of potato chips, and I think it turned out pretty well. Potato chip prescription ... that's what I'm going to try to go with."
Hammel also spent time during the break with his kids, played some golf and went to the beach while he and the rest of the Cubs pressed the reset button after the first half. Chicago has the largest division lead in the Majors, but the club went 9-15 in the final 24 games leading up to the All-Star break.
"We're going to lose some games -- you can't win them all," Hammel said. "At the beginning of the season, we were torrid. Everybody was doing their job and we were clicking on all cylinders. That type of pace is hard to keep up. Obviously, we'd like to do that, but our job is to go game by game and do the best we can. We had a little bit of a hiccup there, and hopefully we can ride this out and make up for some of the ground we lost."
The Cubs now have won three in a row, and they hope to make the most of being home with minimal travel over the next few weeks.
"It's all about confidence," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We're the same group, a little more rested at this particular time. You're seeing pitchers throwing the ball where they want to. Everything's sharp. Of course, it's good to get off to a wonderful start post All-Star."
It helps when the defense makes stops. Baez, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh, didn't let anything get past him. Heyward's catch of Rougned Odor's ball in the ninth was terrific.
"You can't underestimate how difficult those plays are," Maddon said of Heyward's catch, and he suggested the media go stand in right field to see how tough it is to see because of the sun.
Said Heyward: "It was the second hardest [catch] I've ever had with the sun. It was a tough catch. I'm glad I caught it."
It was a team win.
"We've had some games when we threw it around a little bit, a little snowball fight, but for the most part they've been right there for us," Hammel said of the defense. "In order to win championships, you have to make the plays. They've been top notch."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.