Hendricks rescues Cubs again, shuts down Mets
Talk about a winning formula. With Kyle Hendricks on the mound and the A-list bullpen guys rested, the Cubs have been automatic lately.
Hendricks recorded a victory for the seventh-straight start Thursday as the Cubs salvaged one win in this four-game series by beating the New York Mets 2-0. Javy Baez' first-inning home run accounted for all the scoring.
"It's starting to be that 'win day,' that you feel like when he pitches, you have a really good chance to win," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He goes out, probably not the sharpest you've seen him, and he doesn't even give up any runs."
Hendricks (9-4) threw 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out seven. The Mets smacked doubles in each of the first two innings, but the turning point for Hendricks came in the fourth. He walked the first two batters of the inning, a rare, rare occurrence for Hendricks, but came back to coax a double-play grounder from James McCann, then quickly ended the inning with another ground out.
"I felt like I was battling through those first two innings, especially," Hendricks said. "The timing was a little bit off, but mentally I felt great today. Mentally I was locked in pitch to pitch, focus on just making a good pitch.
"So I really, even though I was struggling in those first couple, I didn't make any bad pitches over the middle of the plate. Willie (Contreras) kept me in it. Willie was really feeling the hitters well tonight."
As good as Hendricks has been lately, the Cubs bullpen has probably been better. Ross has been saving the lead relievers to protect a lead, and finally got the chance in this game, with Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel finishing it off with three perfect innings. Thursday happened to be Chafin's 31st birthday.
That trio, especially, has been impressive. Tepera, Chafin and Kimbrel have combined to throw 44⅓ consecutive scoreless innings. They've allowed just 13 hits over that span, 8 walks and struck out 57.
"There's just a huge sense of calm, I think, from everyone," Hendricks said. "We know what those guys are going to bring. They're going to pound the strike zone, not walk anybody, get strike one and they're going to put guys away. We've seen it all year."
This version of Hendricks hasn't been seen all year. His ERA in April was 7.54, the worst month of his career. Even with all the recent success, Hendricks' season ERA is still a work in progress at 4.13.
After the game, Hendricks talked about his transition from bad to unbeatable.
"I'm just making good pitches," he said. "I can trust the action in my pitches. Everything's down, with depth. Beginning of the season, my timing was off. I was late coming out of my glove, so everything was flat. Everything was flat, it was all up in the zone and I was leaving a lot of pitches middle. I made those adjustments that I needed to.
It all turned around for Hendricks, oddly enough, during a game in Pittsburgh on May 9 when he got pounded for 6 runs in 5 innings.
"I knew I'd come out of it," he said. "I'm generally a slow starter. That's the worst I've ever had, obviously. But once it clicks, then it's there. I just had to work on different things until I got that feeling, then it really did set in. I felt it one day and have been able to carry it ever since."
Before the game, the Cubs sent Robert Stock, Wednesday's starter, back to Iowa and brought up left-handed reliever Brad Wieck, who's ERA with the Cubs this season is 0.00.