Even when things go wrong, they end up going right for Cubs

CHICAGO -- Sometimes you get the feeling it just might be the Chicago Cubs' year. In fact, you may have felt that several times already this season even though it’s only 49 games old. Monday was another one of those times as the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 to improve to 35-14.

Facing adversity arguably for the first time since Kyle Schwarber went down, all eyes were on Jason Hammel as he sat on the ground behind the mound before the start of the third inning of a scoreless game. Hammel apparently is fine after leg cramps forced him out of the contest, but at that moment thoughts of last year’s calf injury that changed Hammel’s season came to mind. In fact, until he takes the mound again and starts recording outs, people might wonder if this minor injury could derail him, as happened last year. Time will tell.

So with Hammel out, the Cubs turned to Travis Wood, and he simply saved the day. Four perfect innings by Wood led to three more by three other relievers, and the bullpen accomplished something the Cubs hadn’t done since 1943, according to the team. That’s the last time they completed a game throwing at least seven innings of no-hit, no-run ball.

“Two things,” Hammel said. “Travis did an amazing job. And also what [John] Lackey and Kyle [Hendricks] did two nights ago. If this happens and they didn’t do that [then], the bullpen is short on rest.”

It takes more than luck to get seven perfect innings from four relievers. Hendricks threw a complete game on Saturday followed by Lackey’s seven innings on Sunday, leading to a rested and strong bullpen.

Of course, it’s not easy to come off the couch from the clubhouse and throw four shutout innings, but Wood has the demeanor to do exactly that. He isn’t suited to enter in the middle of an inning of a tie game to face the other team’s best lefty, but ask him for a few innings on short notice and he’s your man.

Incidentally, though Maddon wouldn’t commit to it, Wood’s performance earned him a start if Hammel needs to miss a turn. Wood threw 43 pitches, so he’ll need a couple of days anyway; it makes sense to hold him back if Hammel shows any signs of cramping later in the week.

As for the rest of the game, Maddon had the luxury of replacing the second-best player in baseball at getting on base this season -- leadoff man Dexter Fowler -- with the only person who ranks ahead of him, Ben Zobrist. Zobrist extended his hitting streak to 16 games and his on-base streak to 35 consecutive starts while scoring the winning run in the fifth inning.

Down a pitcher and a key hitter, the Cubs didn’t miss a beat as Hammel called the win a “team effort.” It’s another one in a season full of them so far.