Hendricks keeps it huming as Cubs shut out Twins
This isn't a bad playoff dress rehearsal for the Cubs.
Minnesota, one of the better teams in the AL, is at Wrigley Field for the weekend and the Cubs had Kyle Hendricks, post-no-hitter Alec Mills and Yu Darvish lined up to start.
Friday's Game 1 might have been even more of a pitchers' duel than anyone expected. But Hendricks was as sharp as he's every been, allowing 3 hits over eight innings in a 1-0 victory, the Cubs' fifth straight.
Hendricks has won four straight starts while posting a 1.21 ERA. He has a good chance to follow Darvish as the NL pitcher of the month.
"When you have a pitcher that can get ahead in the count real quick like Hendricks and then he can execute with two strikes, you have nowhere to go but to the bench," said catcher Willson Contreras, who drove in the Cubs' only run. "It's really good to be behind the plate with Kyle."
This was practically a replay of Hendricks' complete-game shutout on opening night, except this time manager David Ross took him out after 104 pitches through eighth innings.
Hendricks had a season-high 10 strikeouts and retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced, against a team that ranks sixth in the majors in home runs. The Twins collected 2 hits and a walk in the first two innings, but Hendricks and Contreras collaborated on a winning strategy.
"Willy and I kind of both noticed them just waiting for the changeup, it looked like, early," Hendricks said. "So we were able to make that adjustment right away. We came in after the first inning and had a good talk.
"From there, really established the fastball, especially with two strikes, threw some really good fastballs there. Then we noticed that the curveball started to work later. Really good mentally by both Willy and me, just going pitch-to-pitch and realizing what they were trying to do."
Jeremy Jeffress walked two in the ninth inning, but was helped by a double play and ended the game by coming back from a 3-0 count to strike out Eddie Rosario and record his eighth save.
Hendricks' opponent was 40-year-old lefty Rich Hill, who started a game for the Cubs in the 2007 playoffs. The Cubs' lone offensive threat came in the first inning. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant started with walks, then Contreras singled in Rizzo and three batters in, the Cubs had their margin of victory.
The first-inning rally fizzled, though, when Kyle Schwarber grounded to third and Twins fielder Josh Donaldson raced to the bag and tagged out Bryant. That was the end of the offense, but it was all the Cubs would need.
"Kyle's just one of those pitchers that you have a lot of confidence in," Ross said. "He's fun to watch. I love the way he's been moving his fastball around the zone. I just think that's such a key for him, running it in on the righties, front hip to lefties, down and away, up at times. Then the breaking ball I thought was really good tonight I hadn't seen that in a while."
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls