Imrem: Hendricks has quietly become one of NL's best pitchers
By Mike Imrem Nobody should be surprised that Kyle Hendricks is more than a team like the Washington Nationals and pitcher like Stephen Strasburg can handle.
Maybe a couple years ago this wouldn't have made any sense because …
Hendricks, Cubs starting pitcher, is 190 pounds, with an upper 80s fastball; Strasburg, a Nationals starter, is 240 pounds with an upper 90s fastball.
Reading their resumes, it would have made even less sense.
Hendricks was drafted in the eighth round in 2011; Strasburg was taken first overall in 2009.
Hendricks has been on his way to a one-year contract paying him $760,000; Strasburg has been on his way to a 7-year, $175-million deal.
Each is a Californian, but Hendricks played college ball at academic-rich Dartmouth; Strasburg played at sports-rich San Diego State.
But we're talking baseball and Friday night's Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Washington.
Even more specifically, we're talking a matchup between Hendricks and Strasburg.
Guess who won?
Yes, the Cubs 3-0, after Hendricks staked them to a 2-0 lead during his 7 magnificent innings of work.
"Strasburg was outstanding," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "and we had to pitch as well as Kyle did to beat him."
Strasburg yielded 3 hits and 2 unearned runs while striking out 10 over 7 innings, while Hendricks' line was 2 hits and 0 runs over 7 innings.
The best baseball players come in all sizes and shapes and from all geographic and educational backgrounds.
As good as Hendricks has evolved into for the Cubs, hardly anyone is as good as Strasburg when he's on and healthy.
Yet there Hendricks was on this night, winning a pitcher's duel against Strasburg.
Remember, early this postseason has belonged to hitters more than pitchers. In fact, while the Cubs and Nationals still were scoreless, the Yankees and Indians were tied 8-8 at Cleveland.
How beautiful it was in D.C. as Hendricks baffled the Nats with his lower-level velocity and Strasburg baffled the Cubs with his higher-octane velocity.
Strasburg looked like he would have the best of it until a couple firsts in the sixth inning.
First, Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon committed his first error since July 22. Then, Kris Bryant singled for the Cubs' first hit off Strasburg.
Bryant's hit drove in Javier Baez and before the inning was over, Anthony Rizzo drove in Bryant for a 2-0 Cubs lead.
That was enough for Hendricks, who has quietly become one of the National League's best pitchers.
"He's a technician," Maddon has said.
Never more so than in this victory over the Nationals, when Hendricks contrasted favorably to Strasburg.
"This is as good as I've seen him," Maddon said of Hendricks, attributing it to a bit more velocity.
A Hendricks type of pitcher takes a little bit longer to capture the imagination of the baseball community.
Like "chicks dig the long ball," fans romanticize over power pitchers like Strasburg.
But movement, location, precision, deception and poise prove to be as effective as overpowering stuff.
"He's always locked in," Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said of Hendricks.
It's saying something that on this night Kyle Hendricks' attributes were good enough to beat Stephen Strasburg.