July 03, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Jason Hammel has spent part of his career in the American League with Tampa Bay, the team that drafted him, and the Baltimore Orioles.

But the Chicago Cubs starter is no stranger to the Washington Nationals and Nationals Park, where he will pitch Wednesday against Stephen Strasburg (10-0, 3.03) and the Nationals.

"I love the stadium. I love the atmosphere," Hammel said of Nationals Park. "It is a beautiful ballpark. The energy is great."

Hammel (7-2, 2.36), who has also pitched for the Colorado Rockies, certainly loves to face the Nationals. He is 9-0 in his career against Washington in 12 starts with a 3.16 ERA. It is the most wins without any losses for any active pitcher against one team.

Born in South Carolina, Hammel lived in the Pittsburgh area as a young boy before settling in a suburb of Seattle with his family. The lanky right-hander said the Nationals have traditionally been a right-handed hitting team, which favors him.

That has changed with the addition of Washington second baseman and lefty swinger Daniel Murphy, who has been leading the majors in hitting in his first season with the Nationals.

"He is a presence," Hammel said of Murphy. "It is protection for (Bryce) Harper, it is protection for (Jayson) Werth. He knows what he is doing. He is a hitter you have to be careful with."

The Cubs certainly found that out last October when Murphy was a one-man wrecking machine for the New York Mets in a win over Chicago in the National League Championship Series.

Washington manager Dusty Baker, the Cubs skipper from 2003-06, said Strasburg is not bothered by things such as rain delays and hot weather as he was in the past.

"He's probably stronger mentally and not affected by things," Baker said. "I heard little things would bother him. His demeanor (now) is almost boring."

Strasburg has not faced the Cubs since Aug. 22, 2013, when he went 8 2/3 innings and allowed seven hits and four earned runs with two walks and eight strikeouts.

Hammel became a free agent after the 2013 season and signed with the Cubs. He was traded by Chicago to the Oakland Athletics on July 5, 2014, then became a free agent after that season. Hammel signed Dec. 12, 2014 as a free agent with the Cubs and last year was 10-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts with the club.

Hammel threw a normal bullpen session Sunday in Atlanta to prepare for his next start.

"I try to stick to my routine," said Hammel, who normally throws 40 to 60 pitches during his side work in between starts. "I will throw a lot of fastballs."

The Cubs hope he can turn in another solid start Wednesday. He has allowed just 52 hits in 68 2/3 innings this year, with 24 walks and 60 strikeouts.

"His breaking stuff has been outstanding," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hammel. "He has been pitching deep into games. I believe he may be feeding off the rest of the staff a little bit. But he had a good first half last year, too."

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