CHICAGO — There’s something about Wrigley Field that continues to bring out the best in Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel.
Hammel (15-9, 3.56 ERA) brings the second-best home ERA in baseball (1.84) into Saturday’s middle game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s also 10-1 in 14 home starts.
But whether Hammel is one of the Cubs’ starters in the postseason has yet to be determined.
"The way I look at it is there’s no wrong choice," said Hammel earlier this week after tossing a four-hit effort over seven innings in the Cubs’ 5-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. "We got 25 guys who are going to put up wins for us, whether it’s hitting, pitching, defense. … So we’re going to continue to do what we do, do our work and show up and play, and they’ll put up the best team out there."
The Cubs got some critical bullpen reinforcement on Friday with the return of right-hander Pedro Strop off the disabled list following a left meniscus tear suffered last month and subsequent arthroscopic surgery.
Strop, 31, is 2-2 with 21 holds and a 2.82 ERA in 51 relief appearances with the Cubs this season.
The Cubs enter Saturday’s middle game with the Cardinals needing just two victories to hit 100 for the season and are currently on a pace to secure 103.
They’ll wrap up the home season Sunday as left-hander Jon Lester (18-4, 2.36) meets Cardinals righty Carlos Martinez (15-8, 3.16 ERA). Lester has the second-lowest ERA in the league behind teammate Kyle Hendricks (2.06).
Chicago will hit the road next week for four games at Cincinnati and three at Pittsburgh before opening the NL playoffs next month.
The Cardinals, on the outside looking in for one of two final wild card berths, will try to break out of a two-game losing streak as Alex Reyes (3-1, 1.03) makes his 11th appearance and fourth start of the season in Saturday’s middle game of the Cubs-Cardinals series.
Reyes has won his last two starts, including a Sept. 18 outing against the Giants in which he allowed no runs on four hits while striking out six and walking two over seven innings in the Cardinals’ 3-0 victory.
It’s not known whether shortstop Aledmys Diaz will return to the lineup Saturday. He was sidelined for the second game in the last three on Friday due to continued arm soreness. Diaz is batting .303 in 104 games with 26 doubles and 61 RBIs.
Matt Holliday won’t return to action on Saturday either, but there’s hope the veteran Cardinals outfielder could play before the season wraps up.
He took live batting practice Friday and could have one more before the Cardinals decide whether to activate him from the disabled list or shut him down.
Holliday has been on the disabled list since Aug. 12 with a right thumb fracture and has missed 38 games.