Before anybody really knew what happened, Jason Hammel was sitting on the ground behind the pitcher's mound at Wrigley Field surrounded by Cubs trainers and coaches.
The veteran starting pitcher had just come out to warm up for the top of the third inning after Hammel and Ben Zobrist struck out to strand the bases loaded for the Cubs in the bottom of the second.
He eventually got up and tried to throw a few more warmup pitches, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio ultimately decided to roll with Travis Wood, removing Hammel from the game after only 39 pitches.
Two innings later, the Cubs announced Hammel was being evaluated for right hamstring cramping.
After two shutout innings Monday, Hammel now has a 2.09 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season and has been a revelation in helping the Cubs to the best starting rotation in baseball slotting behind Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey.
Hammel was pitching at an All-Star level (2.89 ERA) before running into a leg injury in early July last season. He was never the same after, posting a 5.03 ERA in his final 15 starts.
Over the winter, the 33-year-old Hammel responded by shedding some weight and rededicating himself to a training regimen designed to help take some pressure off his lower body.
If Hammel is forced to miss any time, the Cubs have Adam Warren, Trevor Cahill and Wood as options to jump into the starting rotation.
NEW YORK -- The White Sox just can’t seem to get back on track.
Over their last 19 games, a once-hot team has continually created new ways to lose.
On Monday, the White Sox couldn’t produce a clutch hit against Matt Harvey and lost 1-0 to the New York Mets at Citi Field to extend their losing streak to seven. Harvey retired Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck with two in scoring position and New York got a late Neil Walker homer to pull ahead.
Over the weekend against Kansas City, the bullpen faltered and allowed 14 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. At some point before that, the team’s starting pitching didn’t come through or a series of poor offensive performances surfaced. All of their maladies have added up to a 4-15 stretch, including 12 losses by two runs or fewer.
“It’s just frustrating losing, whether it’s one or two runs,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “You know, a strikeout here or a base hit here and we could have swept the Royals. It’s going to take one thing to just get us going and it hasn’t happened.
“When we were winning, it seemed like a different guy every day. Now, it’s the opposite -- a different guy every day not getting the job done. It was me today. When you have opportunities, whether you are slumping or not, see the ball, hit the ball. That’s baseball. Don’t put too much on your shoulders and just play the game.
“We talk about it all the time: Do your job. And I didn’t do it.”
Professional soccer players have plenty of down time in their day-to-day lives, but rarely have a stretch of true off days during the season.
This week, though, will be a break for the Chicago Fire. As the Copa America kicks off Friday, the Fire will get a rare in-season week off.
Major League Soccer is taking a break for the tournament contested between national teams from North and South America. No Fire players are participating in the tournament.
Not only does the team not play again until June 15, but the team will not train again until Monday, June 6.
“We want our guys to recover well and start the second part of the season in the best possible performance,” coach Veljko Paunovic said after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Portland. “They will have a fitness plan during this time.”
This is a change of pace from the team’s earlier bye weeks where Paunovic said those were a chance to work on the team’s fitness. This time around the Paunovic is using it as a chance to give the players a restart before getting back to work.
“I think it’s good for us to get a little bit of time off,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “We still have a fitness packet to do and we have to maintain our fitness over the week. I think the guys need to take a little break. When you can, you take it. I think that’s huge for us so when we come back we’re much hungrier to get the next three points.”
The Fire have a longer break than most of MLS. There are three league matches Wednesday and three more on Thursday before the whole league breaks. In addition, the three Canadian MLS teams are playing in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday.
That means the Fire are one of just five MLS teams to get a slightly earlier, longer break for the Copa America.
The Fire return to action in the U.S. Open Cup. They will play against the winner of the Indy Eleven-Louisville City match, which will be played on Wednesday. If Louisville wins the Fire will travel for the June 15 fourth round match. If Indy wins, the match will be at Toyota Park.