With history knocking this week at Wrigley Field, fans settled for the Cubs answering with a series sweep of the Miami Marlins and their hit-mongering outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
Suzuki, who arrived in Chicago with 2,998 career big-league hits, left town stuck on the same number after going 0-for-3 with a pinch-hit at-bat in each game of the series.
Wednesday, he came off the bench in the seventh against John Lackey and looped a soft pop just past the infield grass, where shortstop Javy Baez made a diving catch after initially misjudging it.
Suzuki also lost a potential hit Monday when he slapped a line drive that looked headed to left field until third baseman Kris Bryant caught it and turned it into a double play.
Whether it’s the last time the Cubs will face Suzuki in his career, he has left an impression with at least a few of them.
Lackey, for example, has given up more hits (37) to Ichiro than any other pitcher in his career.
Jason Hammel, who grew up in the Seattle area (and missed facing Suzuki by an inning on Tuesday), calls him “one of my heroes growing up from the old Mariners days.
“He was all the rage when he came over. It was Ichiro-mania,” Hammel said. “We didn’t really know what to expect. We just knew that he was really good over in Japan. It was eye opening to see the talent that he had.
“He really was a cultural icon in Seattle,” added Hammel, who has given up 10 hits in 32 at-bats to Suzuki (.313). “It’s been exciting to follow his success, and also be part of his success. I’m on his wall.”
Hammel to bereavement list; Grimm returns
After earning his career-high 11th victory Tuesday with six scoreless innings Hammel left Chicago to return home because of an illness in the family.
He was placed on MLB’s bereavement list, allowing a period of three to seven days away from the team.
He’s expected to return in time to make his next scheduled start, Aug. 10 against the Angels.
Taking Hammel’s place on the roster is reliever Justin Grimm, who was recalled from Class AAA Iowa just three days after being optioned to the minors.
The move gave the Cubs a nine-man bullpen.
‘Game changer’ with a glove
Baez started at shortstop to give Addison Russell a day off. It was Baez’ third start at a different position in as many days – having made highlight-reel plays Monday at second (on a tag and relay throw) and Tuesday at third (on a charging, bare-handed play on a slow roller).
“It’s unusual. Not many groups have that particular weapon,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a game changer on defense.”
Baez, who struck out swinging in the fifth and seventh, also singled during the Cubs’ ninth-inning rally Wednesday.
“There’s times for maybe a week or 10 days where he’ll shorten up and really utilize the entire field. Otherwise, he’s pretty much John Daly,” Maddon said, comparing him to the big-swinging golfer. “He’s making some really wonderful strides.”
Maddon said he hasn’t decided how he’ll employ the designated hitter during this weekend’s three-game series in Oakland, still needing to go over the matchup calculus with the A’s starting pitchers.
The Cubs have used three different DH’s in four interleague road games this season: Jorge Soler (the first two games of the season in Anaheim), Dexter Fowler (opener of last week’s White Sox series) and Kris Bryant (other Sox game).
The A’s starters for the series, which opens Friday (9:05 p.m.): left-hander Dillon Overton, right-hander Sonny Gray and lefty Sean Manaea.
The Cubs have three more DH games this season after Oakland: Sept. 9-11 in Houston.