MILWAUKEE – Jason Hammel studied up on the Milwaukee Brewers. He passed a tough test Saturday.
The Cubs right-hander watched from the dugout the previous night as the Brewers pounded out 16 hits against his fellow Cubs pitchers, and he was determined not to let that happen again.
Lesson learned: Hammel had a season-high eight strikeouts in seven strong innings, and Anthony Rizzo hit two two-run homers to lift the Cubs to an 8-0 win.
"They're aggressive. ... They've really been working the ball the other way," Hammel said. "So, I made sure they knew that I was throwing in. Today, I had a pretty good slider. I kept them off balance."
Hammel (6-3) also hit two batters, but otherwise allowed just four hits to an opponent that came into the day with at least 10 in nine straight games. On Saturday, Rizzo provided the offensive highlights.
Both of Rizzo's homers came on full-count pitches and went deep to right, the second one into the second deck to give the Cubs a four-run lead in the sixth.
The Cubs chased Brewers starter Wily Peralta (4-5) in the five-run sixth that started with a single from Hammel, who later scored on Rizzo's homer.
"He had a couple bad pitches to Rizzo, and Rizzo gives him trouble," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "He makes mistakes to him and Rizzo does not miss them."
The homers delighted a healthy showing of Cubs fans that made the short trip north from Chicago. They cheered and whistled their last-place team on a warm, bright afternoon that made for ideal conditions for baseball.
Many of those out-of-towners wore No. 44 shirts for Rizzo, the left-handed first baseman who returned to the lineup Saturday after getting his first day off of the season. The rested Rizzo rewarded his backers with his fifth career multi-homer game, and first since Aug. 21, 2013 against Washington.
"It was nice just to be able to watch the game yesterday ... slow life down a little bit while I'm on the bench," Rizzo said. "Today's obviously a good day for myself and our club."
His first homer in the fourth Saturday came two batters after a safe call on runner Emilio Bonifacio at second was confirmed following a Brewers replay challenge. Milwaukee was hoping Bonifacio would turn into the front end of a double play.
Peralta had one his worst outings of the season after being charged for six runs and five hits. His ERA rose from 2.12 to 2.73 following an outing of 5 2-3 innings.
Peralta was also on the losing end in the Cubs' 4-0 win over Milwaukee on April 27 at Miller Park, when Hammel held the Brewers scoreless over seven innings and struck out seven.
Hammel was just as tough Saturday in helping to snap Chicago's three-game losing streak.
"He commands his emotions and is meticulous in his preparations and that's how he's able to attack hitters the way he wants to," manager Rick Renteria said.
Hammel's fastball was clocked in the low 90s, and he mixed in the challenging slider. The shadows creeping across the infield didn't help Brewers hitters either.
"I think in the fourth or fifth inning it was sun to the shade. That's the time you want to pick up the off-speed. It was a little tougher then," said Scooter Gennett, who had two hits.