Updated: June 27, 2014 7:20PM
Jason Hammel helped the Cubs continue their strong June. And in the process he boosted his trade value.
With scouts watching, Hammel pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs while striking out six in the Cubs’ 7-2 win Friday over the Washington Nationals. Expected to be dealt before the July 31st deadline, Hammel (7-5) only helped his stock as he won for the first time in June, despite having allowed only 10 earned runs in his four previous starts this month.
John Baker, who entered the day hitting .160 with four RBIs, was 3 for 3 with four runs batted in, including a three-run double in the seventh that gave the Cubs a 7-2 lead. Ryan Sweeney also drove in two and Darwin Barney added another RBI.
That was enough to beat Washington starter and former University of Illinois pitcher Tanner Roark (7-5), who gave up four runs and a season-high 10 hits in six innings.
By beating Roark, the Cubs moved to 14-11 this month and 21-17 in their last 38 games.
“It’s been weird. Our last three seasons have kind of followed a similar pattern,” Theo Epstein said before the game. “We get out of the gate the first few weeks of the season we have bullpen issues, closer problems. You lose a lot of close games, you don’t hit with runners in scoring position, we get buried in the standings, make a few adjustments, tend to find our way right around June, play pretty good ball and then by the time the deadline rolls around it’s too late, we’re out of it. And we make some changes for the big picture, for the betterment of the organization as whole and then we make our way through August and September.
“But we’re not opposed to changing that script,” Epstein added. “I said the other day if we want to go win 15 in a row or something, we’d definitely be open to it.”
As well as the Cubs might be playing for their standards, a 15-game streak probably isn’t happening. What’s more likely is that Hammel will soon be sent to a contender for future help, though he helped the Cubs take their second straight from a team trying to win this year.
Following Adam LaRoche’s fourth-inning home run that tied the game 2-2, Hammel retired the next 10 batters until Wilson Ramos’ one-out single in the seventh. That also ended Hammel’s day, with Brian Schlitter replacing him.
Schlitter ended the inning by getting Ian Desmond to ground into a double play.