Hendricks almost goes the distance again in Cubs' 7-2 win

 
 
Updated 6/2/2016 6:54 PM
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  • The Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo watches his 12th home run of the season, which came off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher J.P. Howell during the eighth inning Thursday in Chicago. The Cubs hit four homers in the 7-2 win.

    The Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo watches his 12th home run of the season, which came off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher J.P. Howell during the eighth inning Thursday in Chicago. The Cubs hit four homers in the 7-2 win. Associated Press

Let's flash back to Wednesday night for a moment before we talk about the Chicago Cubs' 7-2 victory Thursday over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field.

Jon Lester had just tossed a complete game to beat the Dodgers 2-1.

The complete game in baseball has gone the way of the 1-hour, 50-minute contest, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon talked late-night about how much good it does when a starting pitcher goes the distance.

"I'm a big believer when a guy completes a game, that can really catapult him in the next several starts," Maddon said. "There's something that it does to a starter's mentally. I learned that in the minor leagues, and I really believe that."

That scenario came into play Thursday. Kyle Hendricks tossed a complete game last Saturday against the Phillies.

It was on to the Dodgers Thursday, and lo and behold, Hendricks sailed through 8 innings and looked strong enough to go 9 as he improved to 4-4 with a 2.84 ERA. The offensive support came in the form of home runs from Javier Baez, Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Hendricks seemed to be buying Maddon's theory.

"Absolutely," said the 26-year-old right-hander, who threw 101 pitches as he gave up 3 hits and 2 runs while walking one and striking out six. "I've been throwing the ball better, mixing up speeds well. But when you go deep into the game once or twice, you learn how to do it, and you're better at it.

"I think it's just simplifying, mainly, when I'm out there later in the game, still focusing on making good pitches and keeping it simple, not really letting all the outside forces creep in."

That's exactly what Maddon had in mind.

"He knows he can do it," said Maddon, whose team won three of four from the Dodgers and improved to 37-15. "He can do it now, and that really matters. For the most part this year, we were going 5-6-plus (innings) with him, maybe a 7. But (last Saturday) was the perfect opportunity to let him go more deeply into the game. We had to. He was pitching that well.

"So he comes out today knowing that he can do that. Hot day. Really good lineup. A lot of good left-handed hitters. To be able to navigate that lineup as well as he did speaks to how well he's pitching right now."

The Cubs already had a 4-0 lead when Trayce Thompson hit a solo homer off Hendricks with one out in the fifth. The Dodgers got their other run in the sixth, after the Cubs had scored 2 more.

The Cubs opened the scoring with a pair against 19-year-old Dodgers starter Julio Urias in the second before the power came on.

Baez yanked a 2-run homer to left in the fourth. Heyward lined one to the right-center field bleachers with one out in the fifth. On the next pitch Kris Bryant rocketed one off the videoboard in left field.

"Honestly, I really thought it had a chance to hit the top (of the board) when it left the bat," Maddon said. "It was hit that well. How about it?"

Maddon called Baez the second star of the game behind Hendricks. In addition to his home run, Baez made a couple of sparkling plays at second base as he gave Ben Zobrist a rest. In the fifth, Baez dived behind second base to snag Carl Crawford's soft line drive with a backhand catch. Baez used only the glove to catch and toss Chase Utley's grounder for an out in the sixth.

"I'm making my adjustments, I'm playing all over the field, obviously trying to play more, and I know I will," Baez said. "I'm just trying to stay healthy now and work day by day. I would love to play every day, but if it's not my time, it's somebody else -- it's his time, and I'll be ready to come in the game."

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