A SHUTOUT SHOUT-OUT
Hendricks blanks brewers On three hits, fans nine on opening day; happ, rizzo hit HRs
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.