Hendricks sharp as Chicago Cubs take 2 of 3 from White Sox

Heading into the final week of the regular season, here is the status report on all things Chicago Cubs:

• Bullpen: solid all year.

• Offense: up and down all year.

• Starting rotation: coming along with a chance for a strong finish.

For as disjointed as the season has appeared to be at times, the Cubs walked away from Sunday's 6-1 victory over the White Sox on the South Side with a record of 91-64, best in the National League with the final push beginning Monday night at Wrigley Field.

With the Milwaukee Brewers also winning Sunday, the first-place Cubs saw their magic number fall to 5 for clinching the NL Central.

The Cubs likely will go as their starting rotation will take them, and they got another good effort Sunday from Kyle Hendricks, who worked 7⅔ innings of 4-hit, 1-run ball as he improved to 13-11 with a 3.61 ERA. In his previous start, last Monday at Arizona, he came within one out of a complete-game victory.

On Sunday. Hendricks' teammates scored all 6 of their runs over the first three innings.

"I carried over a lot of the good habits," he said. "Actually, it kind of got better starting from the fourth inning on. It was real nice to get those early runs because my stuff was kind of flat, giving up a lot of hard-hit balls the first three innings. But scoring that many runs early allowed me to just really find it, be aggressive in the zone still. Fourth inning on, fastball command was a lot better."

Quality starts have been hard to come by at times for the Cubs this year, but they have 10 now for September after posting 12 in August, their best month since turning in 13 over March-April.

"We're all feeling really good right now," Hendricks said. "It's been a pretty good little run for us, yeah, at the right time, you could say. But our confidence is up there. Really, confidence as a team as a whole, it starts with the starting staff, but bullpen's still doing their job, getting big outs. The lineup's putting together great at-bats and scoring runs now.

"When it all comes together like this, it's pretty scary, and it's fun to watch."

After losing 9-1 at Arizona on Wednesday and 10-4 to the Sox on Friday, the Cubs rebounded with an 8-3 victory Saturday night before taking the series Sunday.

They scored 3 in the first inning against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon, with runs coming on Anthony Rizzo's double, Albert Almora's groundout and David Bote's single.

Even more encouraging for the Cubs was Kyle Schwarber's 444-foot home run to right-center leading off the second. It was Schwarber's 26th homer of the season but only his first against a left-handed pitcher. He also doubled and walked twice.

"I'll take a homer and a double if it's off a sidearm right-hander or a switch-handed pitcher, I guess," he said. "It's always a good day when you get that done."

Like Hendricks, Schwarber sees things rounding into form at the right time for the Cubs.

"A lot of good things have happened," he said. "People were making a big deal at the (all-star) break where we were at, but I think we were pretty much at the same point where we were last year, and we won the division and went into the playoffs. A lot of good things have happened throughout this whole year. We've just got to be able to finish strong.

"It's always a fun part of the year, especially when it comes down to the end. October's coming around the corner. It's a brand-new season after the season is over. It's zero-zero, and it's all about winning. That's what I love about it."

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Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber hits a one-run double during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Chicago. Associated Press
Chicago White Sox right fielder Daniel Palka chases a one-run double by Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Chicago. Associated Press
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