Vintage Hendricks flirts with no-hitter, lifts Cubs past Giants
With the Cubs trying to dig their way out of a dreary West Coast trip, a welcome visitor arrived Saturday in San Francisco -- vintage Kyle Hendricks.
The veteran right-hander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Julian Merryweather finished off the combined 1-hitter and the Cubs beat the Giants 4-0.
The no-hitter lasted until two outs in the eight inning -- longest in MLB this season, according to the Cubs -- before Mitch Haniger doubled off the left-field wall.
For most of the day, Hendricks was cruising. He needed just 29 pitches to get through the fourth, fifth and six innings. He finished at 94 pitches in 8 innings and walked just one.
"You realize pretty early what you're doing," Hendricks told reporters after the game. "I realized I'd walked a guy already, so I didn't want to pitch around guys to get it necessarily. I just wanted to stay on the attack, keep making my pitches and whatever happens, happens."
This was Hendricks' fourth start of the 2023 season after missing several months with a right shoulder strain, going back to last July. So this was his first Cubs victory since June 30 of last season against Cincinnati.
"As calm and cool as his demeanor is, he's a sneaky intense competitor -- obviously, I think," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He's the same dude no mater what. Some of my favorite moments for him were in the biggest stages of my career and his career where he's just dominant and walking off the same as if it's a spring training start."
As usual, Hendricks never threw a pitch at 90 miles per hour, though his fastball did peak at 89.4 miles per hour. He threw close to an equal mix of the sinker, four-seam and changeup, while collecting 21 called strikes.
"I felt great," he said. "I've been feeling good the last few starts, honestly. I felt like I was catching my rhythm, making a lot of good pitches. The rhythm today was just better, rhythm and timing. Got away with some stuff in the beginning, honestly, then really kind of hit my stride in about the fourth or fifth."
The offense also got a much-needed lift, with both Matt Mervis and Christopher Morel hitting solo home runs. After hitting 9 home runs in 12 games when first recalled from Iowa, this was Morel's first round-tripper since May 23. He added a 2-run single in the fifth inning to make it 4-0.
Center fielder Mike Tauchman made the defensive play of the game with a diving sliding grab on a full sprint in the right-center field gap.
Hendricks' stellar outing followed another strong performance by Marcus Stroman on Friday as the Cubs won the series opener 3-2.
On Saturday afternoon, Stroman sent a tweet with an update on where things stand regarding his future with the Cubs. He's been vocal about wanting to stay in Chicago beyond this season.
"My agent and I made multiple attempts to engage them on an extension," the tweet read. "Club wasn't interested in exploring it now. Will see how it plays out! Love everything about the Cubs organization!"
Stroman, 32, can opt out of his deal and become a free agent this winter.
The Cubs improved to 28-36 with Saturday's win, but could be facing another sell-off at the trade deadline if things don't improve.