CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn't looking ahead to any possible postseason matchups or plotting who will close a tight National League Division Series game. He definitely hasn't bought any champagne."I have not been part of a party] planning committee right now," he said.The Pirates spoiled any celebration. Cole
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn't looking ahead to any possible postseason matchups or plotting who will close a tight National League Division Series game. He definitely hasn't bought any champagne.
"I have not been part of a [party] planning committee right now," he said.
The Pirates spoiled any celebration. Cole Hamels hit his second career home run, but that's all the offense the Cubs could generate against Pirates starter Jameson Taillon in a 5-1 loss on Monday night at Wrigley Field.
• Arms That Hammer Sweepstakes
Chicago began the day with a magic number of two to secure a postseason berth, but needed a win over the Pirates and a Rockies loss. Colorado rolled to a 10-1 win over the Phillies, while the Cubs' magic number to clinch the NL Central remained at five with the Brewers' 6-4 win over Cardinals.
"We knew it was not going to be easy," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "This week won't be any different than the previous, however many weeks we played. Just gotta win ballgames."
Hamels served up a two-run homer to Francisco Cervelli in the first and an RBI double to Jose Osuna in the sixth, while Taillon shut down the Cubs on five hits over seven innings. The right-hander has given up three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 21 starts.
• Cervelli's homer hits car parked outside Wrigley
The Pirates have been tough of late. During a series at PNC Park on Aug. 16-19, the Cubs scored one run in each of the four games and split that series.
"Sometimes you run into the wrong guy," Maddon said. "Their pitching staff in general has given us a hard time. ... They are good, but we've got to do better."
The Cubs' rotation has been solid in the second half and Hamels has had a lot to do with that. The problem has been the offense, which Maddon described as "awkward." It's been inconsistent, which is not what Maddon expected at the start of the season.
The Cubs did have chances, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and stranding runners at first and third in the sixth.
"I've played this game long enough that when you have the opportunity to be a spoiler, you have a little more energy in the clubhouse," Hamels said. "You play for a little more to kind of disrupt what's going on."
Hamels, who was acquired on July 27 from the Rangers, went 4-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his first nine starts with the Cubs. Monday was the third time the lefty has faced the Pirates since joining Chicago and he had given up one unearned run over 12 innings in the two previous starts. This time, he was lifted after striking out seven and throwing 106 pitches over six innings.
"The guy loves to win, he wants to win, he is a winner," Maddon said. "Definitely, the other guys feel it."
Just not this time.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Street savvy: With two outs in the Pirates' first, Josh Bell singled to center to set up Cervelli's 12th home run of the season, which cleared the left-field bleachers and landed on Waveland Avenue. Cervelli connected on a 92.5 mph fastball from Hamels, the 29th homer off the lefty, which is a season high, although only six of those have come with the Cubs. He served up 28 in 2008 with the Phillies.
"Giving up home runs [stinks]," Hamels said. "I can't shy away from it. I do give them up. I've given them up in my career. I try to minimize the damage to mostly solos."
But Hamels said giving up a homer in the first inning helped the Pirates' momentum.
"That was a pitch where we were intending to throw it and he got to it," Hamels said. "The [two] home runs I gave up in Arizona were bad pitches and bad locations to [Christian Walker and Chris Owings] to where they actually do their damage. It's a matter of trying to limit the damage and just be a little bit smarter."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hamels helped himself in the third when he connected on a 3-1 pitch from Taillon. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled a projected 437 feet to center. Hamels' only other home run came on July 21, 2012, against the Giants when he played for the Phillies. He entered the game a career .170 hitter and had two hits this season with the Cubs.
"Any time you hit a home run, it's pretty exciting but I think it goes better when you win," Hamels said. "You really have to give it to Taillon. He came after us and threw the ball really well. Fortunately, I was able to get a pitch to hit in a count but then he broke it down the second at-bat. He's a tremendous pitcher and he has a lot of upside to look forward to. He's going to be a challenge from here on out."
"Pretty well struck," Maddon said. "He takes a good hack. The guy can hit. Did it surprise me? No. I think him and [Jonathan Lester] mechanically have really good swings. He timed it perfectly and got it all."
Lester connected on July 1 against the Twins.
"It was impressive," Rizzo said of Hamels' homer. "It was 3-1, just let it eat. It was a no-doubter to right-center."
The Cubs set a franchise record with 90 starts by a left-handed pitcher this season. The previous high was 89 in 1966.
HE SAID IT
"I didn't know they had a shot at clinching, but their fans were great. They're a playoff team. They're a great lineup. It's fun to pitch here, but what's extra fun - for me - is hearing the seventh-inning stretch out there. That's when you know you're in a good spot in the game, you're at Wrigley Field, you're out there for the seventh inning, you hear the famous seventh-inning stretch. I kind of had a cool moment when I was going back out there." -- Taillon
"We have to keep our focus and keep to the game plan, and just try to execute pitches or execute at-bats inning by inning. We do have the talent and from what I've seen, we definitely know how to put up runs. it just hasn't happened this past week. I think for what we're trying to do and what we're trying to accomplish, it's just not try to overdo it and get back to the basics from the first pitch in the first inning and plug away. If we're able to do that, good things will happen and we'll be able to overcome any sort of obstacle." -- Hamels
Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery (5-5, 3.75 ERA) will make his 18th start of the season in the second of this four-game set against the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. So far, he's 5-4 with a 3.35 ERA as a starter. In his last outing, he gave up one run over six innings in a win over the D-backs, and is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA against the Pirates this season. The Bucs will counter with righty Chris Archer (5-8, 4.49 ERA).
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.