MILWAUKEE – Jason Hammel certainly couldn’t complain about being hooked too early in this one.
But after his third rough outing in four starts Tuesday night in Milwaukee, the questions surrounding his playoff status are increasing, and manager Joe Maddon didn’t rule out the possibility of moving him into the bullpen at some point down the stretch to see how he might fare in that role.
“Absolutely, you could do that, no question, if you chose to look at it that way,” Maddon said after the Cubs’ 12-5 loss at Miller Park. “But for right now we haven’t even talked about that.”
For now, the veteran right-hander with the career-high 14 wins appears to be on the outside of the rotation bubble looking in with the potential for four starts left in the season.
But neither Maddon nor Hammel is looking at these next few weeks as an audition, they say.
“Not at all,” Maddon said. “You just keep playing.
“He’s got, what, 14 wins this year? He’s had a nice season. Everybody has bad moments. I don’t worry about things like that.”
Hammel (14-8), who said he’s struggled with the feel for his out-pitch slider of late, watched his ERA jump 36 points to 3.50 after allowing eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, including five runs (four earned) in the first and three more on Ryan Braun’s sixth-inning homer.
It was the third time he’s allowed at least nine runs overall (also July 1 at New York and Aug. 21 at Colorado). He also was pulled in the third, after just 39 pitches, two starts ago in Los Angeles – after which he had a postgame sit-down with Maddon over the quick hook.
Maddon said the way Milwaukee’s right-handed lineup favored Hammel compared to the Dodgers’ left-leaning lineup was a significant factor in leaving him in as long this time.
Hammel is 14-4 with a 2.11 ERA when those four starts are removed from his season numbers.
“Obviously, it sucks, and I guess the story of the tape for me this year is when I’m bad I’m really bad,” said Hammel, who keeps the same approach the rest of the way – regardless of whatever the playoff-roster potential might be.
“I’m not trying to pitch for anything,” he said .”That’s a decision that comes at the end of the season. We’ve got plenty of capable guys here that can pitch in big games. Obviously, I want to be a part of that, but I’m not trying to pitch for a chance to pitch in the postseason.
“I’m just trying to pitch every time out. Just go take the ball every game and try to throw strikes.”
No time to sit for Rizzo?
Anthony Rizzo can’t explain it, but when he homered twice off Wily Peralta on Tuesday night, it boosted his career numbers against the Brewers starter to 16-for-32 (uh, .500) with seven home runs – most homers for him against any pitcher.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Rizzo – who does know this much:
He plans to lobby Maddon against giving him Wednesday’s planned day off.
“I’ll have to fight my way in there,” he said, “especially hitting two homers. Obviously, those have been a little scarce for me lately. Those felt good.”
Rizzo hit as many homers Tuesday as he had in his previous 42 combined.