MIAMI — It might be tempting to point and laugh at the guys on the other side of the field this week when describing how the Cubs enjoyed their most dominant series since last summer.
“That’s an easy trap,” manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs closed out a three-game sweep of the terrible, tanking Marlins with a 6-0 victory Wednesday night behind another commanding performance by left-hander Cole Hamels.
Regardless, the Cubs don’t have the time or inclination to think about what anybody else might be as they concentrate on their own identity after their rough start.
“We obviously know that we need to come in and start winning,” said Hamels, who earned his third consecutive victory with seven scoreless innings — without allowing a walk during that winning streak. “We know we’re a good ballclub. No matter what team we’re playing, it’s just go out there and win.
“It’s just getting back to knowing who we are and what we’re going to accomplish this year — and that’s get back to the top of the division.”
Since their 2-7 road trip to open the season, the Cubs have won six of eight to get back to within one game of .500 as they take Thursday off ahead of a weekend home series against the Diamondbacks.
Hamels, who blamed himself for three walks in his season debut despite a sketchy strike zone, hasn’t walked a batter in 22 consecutive innings since a two-walk fourth in that start.
“Woof, he was really good,” Maddon said. “And I think that’s going to continue. Of course, he’s going to have a bad outing once in a while, but the delivery, the ball out of the hand, the velocity numbers are so good.
“This could sustain itself for a bit.”
Ex-Cub Starlin Castro had the best shot for damage against Hamels with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh. But after getting ahead 3-0 in the count and taking two strikes, he struck out swinging at a 92-mph outside fastball.
Hamels, who then completed his scoreless outing by getting Miguel Rojas to fly to right, said getting the two strikes looking put him in position to go for the chase pitch on 3-2.
“That’s the second time I’ve seen him like that,” said Castro, giving Hamels credit for command and tempo and adding that he never saw him shake off catcher Willson Contreras.
“The first time was with the Cubs,” Castro said, “when he threw a no-hitter against us [in 2015].”
It was the first series sweep for the Cubs since a four-gamer against the Reds in August last season.
And Hamels’ gem, with two more scoreless innings from the bullpen, gave the Cubs back-to-back shutouts for the first time since a pair of 1-0 victories over the Pirates a week earlier in August.
“It’s getting better,” Maddon said of the overall play, especially the pitching. “The bullpen — that’s the biggest difference. The bullpen seems to have righted itself a little bit.”
The starters weren’t bad, either, regardless of what anybody might think of the woeful lineup employed by the 4-15 Marlins.
Cubs starters Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana and Hamels combined for 19‰ innings in the series, allowing only the two runs Darvish gave up Monday (0.92 ERA).
They didn’t allow a walk to the last 56 batters they faced.
The Marlins didn’t score after the fourth inning of the series opener as the Cubs’ staff takes a 23-inning scoreless streak into the day off.
“When our pitchers and our lineup do the job,” shortstop Javy Baez said, “there’s nobody that can beat us.”