Cubs' Hendricks continues mastery with 3-0 win over Pirates
A sign outside of one of the establishments near Wrigley Field urged "The Professor" to "school" the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night.
Said "Professor" is the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks, a 26-year-old right-hander who woke up Tuesday as the major leagues' leader in earned run average, at 2.19.
Hendricks looked the part of the artist Tuesday, as he painted and dotted against the Pirates while his teammates staked him to a 3-0 lead after two innings. That lead held up as the final score as the Cubs took their second straight in this series.
Hendricks (13-7) wound up working 7 innings, giving up 3 hits as his ERA fell to 2.09. He has allowed 3 or fewer earned runs in 18 straight starts. Those kind of numbers figure to get him Cy Young consideration.
"Of course it is, it has to be," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team improved to 84-47. "It has to be Cy Young contention. Again, put the radar gun in your back pocket and look at what he's doing. It has to be strong consideration, not just consideration. The other thing is wins, and this guy has really been victimized by a lack of support on certain nights, even only 3 runs tonight. Again, you've got to look through that sometimes. This is a time if you really want to utilize numbers, really dive in there and see what's going on. It's been very, very impressive."
Cubs players have voiced the team concept first, but the Cy Young talk seems to sound appealing to Hendricks.
"It means a lot, in a way," he said. "Where I was last year and my goals coming into this year, what I was trying to do, I definitely didn't see myself being a part of that. I had my sights set a little lower. To be up there, I'm just taking it in stride. In order to stay there, I have to keep doing the same things I've been doing: consistency, keeping a simple mindset."
It's been quite the season for Hendricks, especially at Wrigley Field. He is 9-1 with a 1.21 ERA at the Friendly Confines. The 1.21 ERA is the best home mark in baseball.
"I'm not sure," he said when asked about success at home. "Some of that consistency. It's the same look, warming up in the same bullpen, throwing off the same game mound. That's got to be part of it. Just very comfortable, comfortable with my routine, my timing, when I'm at home."
Hendricks got off to a perfect start against the Pirates, retiring the first nine batters. He wound up throwing 99 pitches in 7 innings, getting relief from Carl Edwards Jr. and Aroldis Chapman (11th Cubs save).
Cubs hitters gave Hendricks support early with a 2-run homer by Anthony Rizzo in the first and an RBI single by Miguel Montero in the second.
"It's great," Rizzo said of Hendricks. "He comes in every day and does his work. His game plan is really good. He's not the guy who's getting away with plus-plus stuff. He's executing his game plan, and he knows how to attack hitters. He studies hitters. He went to Dartmouth and has a really good education."