Chicago Cubs, Hendricks lose opener to Marlins
There was more to this game than just one pitch in the seventh inning, but the turning point might have hinged on a potential pitching change.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks labored more than usual in Wednesday's opener of the best-of-three wild card series against Miami. He walked three, gave up 2 leadoff doubles and hit a batter leading off another inning. Still, the Cubs led 1-0 in the seventh when the Marlins knocked a couple of one-out singles.
Manager David Ross decided to let Hendricks face one more batter, and Miami left fielder Corey Dickerson lined Hendricks' 106th pitch of the day over basket for a 3-run homer. Teammate Jesus Aguilar added a 2-run homer off Jeremy Jeffress later in the inning and the Cubs lost the opener 5-1.
They'll face an elimination game Thursday at Wrigley Field, but can take optimism in knowing their best pitcher, Yu Darvish, will take the mound.
After the game, Ross talked about what went into the decision to leave Hendricks in to face the left-handed hitting Dickerson.
"Just the swings that Dickerson had taken off him previous," Ross said. "I thought he had some pretty bad swings. Kyle seemed to be in command of two of the three at-bats. He's got a pretty good history with him. I trust in Kyle right there."
The numbers back up the strategy. According to mlb.com, Dickerson -- who has played for the Pirates and Rockies in the past -- was 4-for-16 with a triple against Hendricks. Dickerson admitted he was struggling with the matchup.
"He was solid all day, hitting his spots," Dickerson said. "Tough at bat, he has been for a long time. So it was about getting a good pitch and don't miss it. I think early on, thinking a little too much, trying to be perfect, trying to get the right pitch. That time was see it over the plate, get my timing right and let it go. Got a good pitch to hit."
Of course, Cubs batters could have done more to help the cause. They scored in the fifth on an Ian Happ opposite-field home run, but collected just 4 hits overall and couldn't do much against Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara.
So was it up to Hendricks to be perfect. And he couldn't quite make it out of the seventh.
"I got through a couple jams, just made good pitches," he said." I wasn't totally sharp, to be honest, but I felt like I made a lot of good pitches today. In the seventh, I felt great. I felt really strong.
"Just a good swing by Dickerson, really. Jumped me on the first pitch there and put a good swing on it. Just got to tip your cap there, nothing you can do.
Ross admitted the new rules might have affected his decision process. If he brought in a left-hander to face Dickerson, the new pitcher would have to face a minimum of three batters, unless he finished the inning sooner.
"You trust in the guy that got you there," Ross said. "I trusted him all year long, and he's done nothing but perform. That's kind of how I walked through it.
"It's a series, right? We've won series all year long. We've got a really good guy on the bump going for us tomorrow. Come into tomorrow, take it one pitch at a time. That's a big part of this postseason, just staying focused in the moment."
The Marlins plan to start rookie Sixto Sanchez in Game 2. Sanchez, 21, made his major-league debut on Aug. 22, so obviously the Cubs have never seen him. After a hot start, he did allow 9 earned runs over 7 innings during his last 2 starts, against Washington and Atlanta.
"No panic," Hendricks said. "We've got the guy we want on the mound (Darvish) for us for sure. So just got to go out there and win tomorrow."
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