‘Back to basics': Cole Hamels on his complete game


There's probably a prize somewhere for the person who predicted in April that Cole Hamels would throw the first complete game for the Cubs in 2018. 
On Thursday night, Hamels needed 114 pitches and just under two and a half hours to get the job done in a 7-1 win, one that he said afterward is always what he strives for when he takes the mound.
"That’s what we set out to do," Hamels said. "That’s ultimately the goal."
It didn't quite look in the 1st inning like the night would turn out like it did, when the Reds scored a run on a couple of fluky hits and some slipshod Cubs defense. Hamels needed 24 pitches to get through the opening frame, but from there he put together quick inning after quick inning by pitching to contact and letting the ball go in play. He struck out 7 Cincinnati batters, but Hamels said he thought more about just trusting his teammates.
"There’s a tremendous defense behind me, and I just have to let plays happen," Hamels said.
He was rewarded with some dazzling glovework, particularly a 7th-inning catch in shallow left field by Javy Baez, who also contributed a 481-foot homer and two other hits. The catch, a play that Baez tends to make look much easier than it actually is, preceded a three-run bottom of the inning from the offense. That is an element of the Cubs' game that had been lacking until the last two games.
Manager Joe Maddon said after the game that he has been most impressed by the athleticism of his new pitcher. That, Maddon said, is a big part of what has helped Hamels keep his velocity up even after so many innings in his career. With the rest of the pitching staff putting together a series of good outings in the last week, Hamels has been something of a catalyst.
"He’s definitely come over and set a nice example with how he’s performing," Maddon said.
Anthony Rizzo, who hit a two-run homer in the 1st inning, talked after the game about how much Hamels has meant to the team, especially in light of losing Yu Darvish for the rest of the season.
"I mean, he’s been dominating," Rizzo said of Hamels. "He has all the credentials."
Those credentials include a 2015 no-hitter at Wrigley Field and an extensive postseason track record that includes two World Series appearances. Helpful in a complete game start bookended by tricky innings. After sailing through the 2nd through 8th innings, Hamels went out for the 9th with 91 pitches thrown, and he got in to just enough trouble for reliever Jesse Chavez to start warming up in the bullpen.
But with the bases loaded and one out, Hamels got Tucker Barnhart to ground out on the first pitch and end the game. Hamels said afterward that he had the right mindset to push through that tight spot.
"Sometimes when you strive to get out of something, you make it worse. You kind of have to give in and get back to the basics," Hamels said. "When you’re able to execute pitches, you don't have to strike everybody out. I think that sometimes becomes a factor for a lot of us when things aren’t going right. You just want to strike out the world."
Pitching coach Jim Hickey visited Hamels after the first two Reds batters reached, on a single and a walk, and Maddon said that had he seen Hamels' velocity dip below the 93 mph he had been pegging all night, he would have been more apt to pull him. But instead, he wanted Hamels to have the chance to finish what he had started.
"He deserved it," Maddon said.

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