HOUSTON -- Cole Hamels got unlucky when a few softly hit balls found holes.
Afterwards, though, he was in no mood for excuses of any kind. In a stretch when the Cubs badly need more innings from their starters, Hamels lasted just four in a 6-5 loss to the Astros on Monday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
“It’s just about executing pitches, and I was able to do that when I needed to,” he said. “Wasn’t able to put them away. You have to give them the credit, because they were able to stay with balls and put them in the right places.”
But Hamels could not hold the lead, and afterwards, that’s the thing that bothered him. The Astros scored a run off him in the second and sent nine men to the plate and scored five times in the third for a 6-2 lead that barely held up.
The Astros got three singles -- none of them hit harder than 75 mph -- and a double in the third, but Hamels also walked two and threw a wild pitch. All in all, a tough day at the office.
“I think I understand what we’ve been doing, having to pitch deep into the ballgame, and I wasn’t able to do that,” Hamels said. “That puts the bullpen in a really bad situation when you do it multiple times. It’s not good. I definitely need to make some corrections. I thought I made some pretty good adjustments this last bullpen, but it didn’t show.”
Cole was at his best in a six-inning, 12-strikeout mini-masterpiece. Once he departed, the Cubs almost turned the story of the game into a heroic comeback with a run in the seventh and Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell launching home runs off Astros closer Roberto Osuna in the ninth inning to make it a one-run game. Osuna then got a pair of strikeouts to end it.
“We gave it a great shot there at the end,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It was outstanding. [Hamels] wasn’t sharp. This has been going on for about a week, where the ball’s missing our defense by a bounce here, a ball down the line there.
“But he wasn’t sharp. He’ll be the first one to admit that. I felt kind of good getting out of it where we did at six runs, and then the bullpen kept it in check. I wanted to get into their bullpen. I know they have a good bullpen, but it might have been a better option than Cole right there.”
Seeing his team remain at the top of the National League Central despite losing four of five, Maddon said these are the things every team, even really good ones, go through during a long season.
“There’s nothing I don’t like about what we’re doing right now,” he said. “We’re just facing some good teams, and that’s a good thing.”
As for Baez and those five strikeouts, Maddon said: “The one beautiful thing about Javy, is I don’t think he’s going to lose any sleep over that. I think he’s going to conduct himself in the same manner as if he’d gotten five hits. That’s the beauty of him.”
“Cole has pretty good velocity, and I kept chasing it,” Baez said. “No excuses. I’ll come back tomorrow and fight through it. After my third one, I’d tell him you can throw me a beach ball today, and I wouldn’t hit it."