By HAL McCOY
When Cole Hamels is scheduled to pitch against the Cincinnati Reds, he could put a life-size cardboard cutout of himself on the mound and go play golf and he’d still win.
He was 11-and-1 for his career against the Reds when he trudged to the mound Friday night for the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.
But he had never faced Matt Harvey.
Harvey pitched an escape-act six scoreless innings and it appeared the Reds would win this one.
Harvey, though, needed 96 pitches to cover those six innings and manager Jim Riggleman took him down with the Reds up 2-0.
And that’s when the hubcaps flew off the wheels and the wheels flew off the axle.
Relief pitcher David Hernandez gave up a three-run home run in the seventh to University of Cincinnati product Ian Happ and that’s all the Cubs needed for a 3-2 victory.
Hamels was 4-and-0 with a 1.47 earned run average for his eight starts for the Cubs since they acquired him via a trade with the Texas Rangers.
After holding the Reds to no runs and one hit over three innings, Hamels gave up back-to-back home runs leading off the fourth to Jose Peraza and Joey Votto. Before that Hamels had given up one home run in his previous eight starts for the Cubs.
Meanwhile, Harvey was Houdini. He stranded a runner in the first, a runner in the second, two runners in the third and a runner in the fourth.
But he had retired nine straight when he was removed.
After the two home runs, it was the Reds’ turn to leave the bases littered. They were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
They left two on in the fourth, put their first two on base in the fifth and didn’t score, had their first two on in the sixth and didn’t score, had their leadoff hitter on bases in the seventh and didn’t score and had two on in the ninth and didn’t score.
And the ninth was particularly insulting. Cubs closer Pedro Strop pulled a hamstring running to first base Thursday in Washington, so the Cubs are currently without a closer.
So with his team leading by one run, Cubs manager Joe Maddon sent 37-year-old Jorge De La Rosa to the mound, a guy without a single save in 15 years of major league pitching.
He has one now.
He retired Phillip Ervin on a 3-and-2 ground ball to third base. Curt Casali doubled up the right center gap, putting the potential tying run at second.
Pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart flied to left field and Billy Hamilton walked, putting the potential tying run at second and the potential go-ahead run on first. But Scott Schebler flied to center fielder Ian Happ on a 2-and-2 count to end it.
The Cubs started the seventh inning against Hernandez with a single by Victor Caratini. David Bote hit a sharp ground ball right at Eugenio Suarez and the ball took a high skip off Suarez’s shoulder for an error.
With one out, Happ reached the left center bleachers with his game-winning three-run home run. Happ has 39 career home runs and 10 are against the Reds.
Happ was the Cubs No. 1 draft pick, ninth overall, in 2015. The Reds didn’t have a chance to draft him because they picked 11th that year, two behind the Cubs.
The Reds selected catcher Tyler Stephenson with their first pick in 2015, 11th overall. While Happ is playing in the majors and murdering the Reds, Stephenson is still at high Class A Daytona.
In his previous start, Harvey pitched six innings against San Diego and gave up two runs and four hits while striking out 10. On Friday he gave up no runs, four hits and struck out six.
So, in his last two games he has pitched 12 innings and given up two runs, eight hits and struck out 16.
It leaves the Reds and Harvey with an off-season decision — does he go or does he stay? Can the Reds write a check with enough zeros to keep a guy who can be a legitimate No. 1 in the team’s rotation next season? And does Harvey want to stay with a team trying to figure out a way to finish higher than last?