Hamels finishes what he started in Chicago Cubs' victory

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) and teammates Ben Zobrist (18) and Javier Baez, right, celebrate the Cubs' 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds in a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in Chicago. AP Photo/David Banks)

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) and teammates Ben Zobrist (18) and Javier Baez, right, celebrate the Cubs' 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds in a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in Chicago. AP Photo/David Banks)

 
 
Updated 8/23/2018 10:55 PM

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon figured it was as good a time as any to kick off American Legion Week for his ballclub.

During Legion Week, players are instructed to get to the ballpark closer to gametime, just as they did when they played Legion ball.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The timing looked all right Thursday night as the Cubs cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. They did so behind a complete game by lefty Cole Hamels, who became the first Cubs pitcher this season to go the distance.

Maddon is fond of saying that "September brings its own energy."

We aren't into September yet, but this mini-oasis during the midst of a long stretch of games could set the stage for an energized final month as the Cubs go for their fourth straight postseason appearance.

"You come off the pretty tough road trip," Maddon said of the Cubs' just-concluded journey to Pittsburgh and Detroit. "Even though we were not very offensive, we still came out of it 3-3. Not a bad thing. Get back home now. We got in late last night. It kind of dovetails into that. Day, day, day (Friday-Sunday) and here come the Mets.

"So this is the perfect time, I thought, to back off. Yeah, I do believe that last month brings its own energy. When you're in the hunt like we are, there's just a different method going to the ballpark. You don't have to look for that energy. It just shows up in your face.

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"I love all of that. I think the guys do, also. We're used to this."

Maddon cited the additions of Hamels, second baseman Danie Murphy and relievers Jesse Chavez and Brandon Kintzler as contributing to the Cubs' energy.

Hamels, making his fifth start since being traded from Texas on July 27, gave up 8 hits. He improved to 4-0 with an 0.79 ERA for the Cubs. His addition to the rotation has been key for the Cubs, who have had trouble getting quality starts.

"Baseball is supposed to be fun, right?" Hamels said, in keeping with the theme. "This is a great team. Tremendous energy. What we have at stake. This is a tough division. They've got some tough teams that are fighting. So it's just a matter of just enjoying the moment."

The Reds got a run off Hamels in the first inning. The Cubs went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the inning. Javier Baez reached on a one-out throwing error by shortstop Jose Peraza. Anthony Rizzo followed with his 21st home run of the season, a drive to right-center against Anthony DeSclafani.

Baez made it 3-1 in the third with a monster home run to deep left-center. The Cubs said the blast measured 481 feet. It was Baez's 27th home run of the season and gave him 93 RBI.

"I didn't feel it off the bat, really," Baez said. "Great. We've been battling to play with the wind here. I think that was one of my dreams, hit a ball like that with the wind blowing out. Finally we got it."

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