But after the Cubs shut Darvish down for the season earlier this week and with Chicago's offense freshly breaking out of a slump heading into Thursday's series-opener against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field, Hamels' impressive start to his time with the Cubs may be even more valuable than originally expected.
Hamels has allowed just two earned runs in his four Cubs' starts combined and has posted wins in three of his four outings. Now, with the Cubs having lost three of their last four games, getting another steady performance out of Hamels (8-9, 4.00 ERA) on Thursday may just be what the Cubs need as they attempt to fend off their closest competitors in the National League Central Division.
"It's the belief I've always had, every season, to go out and be a workhorse," Hamels told reporters earlier this month, according to ESPN.com. "To gain momentum or continue winning streaks or end losing streaks."
That's what the Cubs will be looking for from Hamels, who has dominated the Reds during his career with a 10-1 record with 1.93 ERA in 15 career starts against Cincinnati.
The Cubs finally managed some offense in an 8-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday and snapped a five-game stretch in which they scored only one run in each of the five games with all of their scoring coming via the solo home run.
Daniel Murphy, who made his Cubs debut after being acquired from the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, went 2-for-5 and delivered an RBI single as part of the Cubs' victory, which Javier Baez cemented with a three-run homer and an Anthony Rizzo solo shot in the ninth inning.
Murphy's presence will provide some infield insurance as the Cubs placed shortstop Addison Russell on the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. Russell was scratched from Tuesday's game with shoulder inflammation but was placed on the disabled list with a sprained left middle finger. Russell became the second Cubs starting infielder to be sidelined as third baseman Kris Bryant is slowly working his way back from a shoulder injury.
"(Russell's) pretty beat up right now," manager Joe Maddon told reporters on Wednesday, according to mlb.com. "The thing I love about him is he doesn't make excuses. Let's get him well, let's get him ready for the last month."
The Reds will enter this weekend's four-game series after losing two of three games against the Milwaukee Brewers. Cincinnati managed only five hits in a 4-0 loss on Wednesday when the Reds put only one runner in scoring position over seven innings.
"We just didn't put anything together," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman told reporters following the loss, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Anthony DeSclafani (6-3, 4.12) will start for the Reds on Thursday and will be searching for his third victory this month. Like Hamels, DeSclafani has limited the runs he has surrendered and has just allowed a pair of earned runs in August in three games. He is coming off a solid 7 2/3-inning-outing against the San Francisco Giants when he gave up one run and six hits while striking out five in a no-decision.
He is 3-2 with a 3.59 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs, and he is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his only start against Chicago this season. He gave up three hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings in that start on June 23.