Cole Hamels is starting to look like his old self.
The 35-year-old Hamels threw eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball, Javier Baez hit a two-run homer and the host Chicago Cubs topped the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1, on Friday.
The Cubs have won 4 of 5 since being swept in a three-game series at St. Louis last weekend. The Cardinals opened a season-high 10 game road trip that will take them to Miami and the Mets.
Before starting up at Wrigley Field, the Cubs finalized a three-year contract with Craig Kimbrel that guarantees the closer $43 million. While Chicago’s bullpen should get a boost once Kimbrel arrives, its rotation is shaping up nicely.
Kimbrel helped Boston win the World Series, then turned down a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox in November and waited.
“I don’t think waiting around trying to find out who I’m going work for the next year has really been the hardest thing I’ve been through,” he said. “If anything, there’s blessings as well. Good to be home, spend time with family.”
Hamels (5-2) was sharp again, striking out a season-high 10 and walking one after a hard-luck loss last Sunday at St. Louis when he allowed two hits and one unearned run in seven innings. Harrison Bader, who doubled in the second, was the only Cardinal to reach second base against the lefthander.
“That’s as good as anybody’s thrown the ball against us all year,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He was in control, command, everything. Changeup, putting it where he wanted to. He had all his ingredients working and that’s a tough recipe to beat.
Hamels said he “corrected some mechanical flaws” after giving up six runs in four innings in Houston on May 27. He threw 74 of 99 pitches for strikes on Friday, and the lefty is once again consistently getting ahead of hitters.
“It’s the part of the game where you’re really staying in control and you’re keeping hitters off balance,” Hamels said. “You’re putting them in a situation where they’re going to have to commit to pitches that might be out of their zone and not be in their slug zone.”