Hen­dricks blanks brew­ers On three hits, fans nine on open­ing day; happ, rizzo hit HRs

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - BY RUSSELL DORSEY | RDORSEY@sun­times.com | @RUSS_DORSEY1

No matter whom you asked about righthande­r Kyle Hen­dricks be­ing named the Cubs’ Open­ing Day starter be­fore the sea­son be­gan, you would have heard the same thing:

‘‘Kyle de­serves this.’’

Hen­dricks made sure to show ev­ery­one why Fri­day, pitch­ing a com­plete-game shutout in a 3-0 Open­ing Day vic­tory against the Brew­ers to kick off what is sure to be a wild 2020 sea­son.

‘‘All those things I said about him,’’ man­ager David Ross said. ‘‘If that wasn’t on dis­play tonight, I don’t know what is.’’

Hen­dricks turned in a vin­tage per­for­mances, al­low­ing only three hits and need­ing only 104 pitches. It was his first shutout since blank­ing the Car­di­nals on 81 pitches on May 3, 2019. It was also the Cubs’ first Open­ing Day com­plete-game shutout since Bill Bon­ham ac­com­plished the feat in 1974.

‘‘That one’s def­i­nitely up there for a lot of dif­fer­ent rea­sons,’’ Hen­dricks said. ‘‘We love play­ing base­ball so much, and it’s been awhile. Just be­ing back out there with the guys, it was so much fun play­ing for some­thing. You def­i­nitely felt the en­ergy in the dugout.’’

Hen­dricks was the Cubs’ sharpest starter com­ing out of sum­mer camp and rolled that suc­cess over to start the reg­u­lar sea­son. He baf­fled the Brew­ers with a steady diet of sinkers and change­ups, mixed in his curve­ball and forced weak con­tact all night.

Ac­cord­ing to Stat­cast, Hen­dricks pro­duced 19 swing­ing strikes en route to his nine strike­outs and didn’t is­sue a walk.

He got all the run sup­port he needed cour­tesy of the long ball, with Ian Happ launch­ing a two-run home run in the third in­ning and An­thony Rizzo a solo shot in the eighth.

‘‘We just did a good job with ev­ery­body here, just go­ing pitch-to-pitch,’’ said Hen­dricks, who yielded all three hits to short­stop Or­lando Ar­cia. ‘‘We had a great plan, and [catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras], it felt like sec­ond na­ture. We were locked in from pitch one. We had a great plan [and] ex­e­cuted it, but it’s just one [game]. It’s a re­ally good way to start for all of us, set a good tone, but now we just have to keep it rolling.’’

Ross made his first mound visit with a runner on first and two outs in the ninth. But af­ter a short chat — which earned loud cheers from the Cubs’ dugout — Hen­dricks got Ke­ston Hiura to ground into a force on the first pitch to seal the vic­tory.

‘‘I just wanted to go check his pulse,’’ Ross said. ‘‘The pitch count was re­ally get­ting up there. I could watch Kyle pitch all day long, but just the health con­cern. Just mak­ing sure he stays healthy is a big one for us, and I had al­ready pushed him a lit­tle bit past where I wanted to.’’

Not only was it the Cubs’ first vic­tory of the sea­son, but it was the first for Ross as a man­ager. That it hap­pened with Hen­dricks on the mound made it even sweeter.

‘‘I know we’re sup­posed to so­cially dis­tance, but he came in for the hug, and I squeezed the heck out of him,’’ Ross said. ‘‘It’s some­body that is a friend and some­body that I’ve seen grow. He’s the ideal player you want . . . . He’s a good per­son, a good pitcher. I don’t even have the words to tell you how I feel about this guy.’’

‘‘That’s what means the most to me. I love that guy,’’ Hen­dricks said of Ross. ‘‘We just love play­ing for him. We’ve been wait­ing for this mo­ment. We were ex­cited in the spring be­fore this all started and just the vibe and the en­ergy he brings ev­ery day. I told him I was go­ing to go out there and get him his first win.’’ ✶

Ian Happ (left) is greeted by Nico Ho­erner and Kris Bryant af­ter hit­ting a two-run home run in the third in­ning Fri­day.


An­thony Rizzo is con­grat­u­lated af­ter hit­ting a solo home run in the eighth in­ning Fri­day.

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