If the Chicago Cubs indeed are planning a party, manager Joe Maddon can only hope he’s invited.
There was a chance Monday night that the Cubs could clinch at least a playoff berth, if they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Colorado Rockies were to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies.
It didn’t happen, as the Cubs fell 5-1 at Wrigley Field despite a creditable pitching performance by Cole Hamels.
“We always celebrate achievement,” Maddon said. “I have not been a part of a planning committee right now. When it comes to party-planning committees, I’m really not involved.”
Hamels bounced back from last week’s rocky start at Arizona by tossing 6 innings against the Pirates and giving up 5 hits and 3 runs, 2 earned. He also hit his second career home run, a big drive to center field in the bottom of the third off Jameson Taillon to pull the Cubs to within 2-1.
“Anytime, I guess, you hit a home run, it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “But I think it goes better when you win. You really have to give it to Taillon. He really came after us and threw the ball really well.”
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the first after two outs. Josh Bell singled to center field and came home when Francisco Cervelli homered down the left-field line.
“Shoot, 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 at the same time, when you give them up in the first inning when you’re at home, it definitely doesn’t set the momentum.”
Hamels came to the Cubs in a July 27 trade with Texas at a time when the starting rotation needed shoring up. He is 4-2 with an ERA of 2.47 with the Cubs. So it appears he was the right man at the time the Cubs needed some help.
“It’s hard to argue against that,” Maddon said. “There are other people who may have been available at the time. Maybe we got lucky, I don’t know. Not only his ability as a pitcher but how he cavorts in the locker room and his interaction with players.
“Professionalism, his competition on the field, the way he competes, all that stuff is obvious. The guy loves to win and he wants to win. He is a winner. Definitely the other guys feel it.”
The Cubs entered the final full week of their season Monday, and they were looking to clinch not only a playoff berth, but the National League Central, as soon as possible.
Doing it won’t be easy. The Pirates have exceeded expectations this year, and the St. Louis Cardinals come to town to close out the regular season over the weekend.
“I think we’re on the verge of indicating we might be the best division in baseball right now, 1-5,” Maddon said. “It’s not been easy. I never thought it was going to be easy. It’s not over yet. I like the way our guys have accepted all the challenges we’ve had put before us this summer.
“It’s been actually pretty interesting. We’ve learned from everything that we’ve done this year.”