KYLE GETS GROOVE BACK

Hen­dricks sharp for six in­nings af­ter two sub­par starts

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1 RUS­SELL DORSEY CUBS BEAT

Cubs right-han­der Kyle Hen­dricks hasn’t been able to get away with many mis­takes re­cently.

Even as a guy who pitches to con­tact, teams had made him pay for leav­ing pitches over the plate in his last two starts, a trend he knew he had to cor­rect.

‘‘It’s one of two things right now,’’ Hen­dricks said af­ter his last start. ‘‘I’m ei­ther a lit­tle too pre­dictable, so when I do make a good pitch, they’re kind of on it. That was prob­a­bly the case there. Or I’m just not get­ting away with the bad pitches that I make. I’m mak­ing too many bad pitches.’’

Hen­dricks seemed to make the right ad­just­ments in the Cubs’ 8-2 vic­tory Wed­nes­day against the Pi­rates.

It had been hard con­tact that had got­ten Hen­dricks into trou­ble, and he had al­lowed a com­bined 17 hits — in­clud­ing three home runs — in his last two starts.

Dur­ing the first and sec­ond in­nings against the Pi­rates, Hen­dricks was get­ting some pitches up in the zone and made a mis­take, al­low­ing a solo homer to Colin Mo­ran in the sec­ond. Af­ter that, he set­tled in.

‘‘The first thing I told him was that I thought he was rush­ing a lit­tle bit too much,’’ catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras said. ‘‘I know he was try­ing to get in rhythm early in the game. But in­stead of get­ting in rhythm, he was rush­ing.’’

It was clear Hen­dricks was try­ing to get back to ba­sics and let his sinker lead the way, some­thing that has made him so suc­cess­ful in his ca­reer.

Af­ter find­ing his rhythm, Hen­dricks

started to get his sinker down in the zone and mixed in his curve­ball to keep the Pi­rates off­bal­ance.

His changeup was some­thing he used spar­ingly, throw­ing a sea­son­low 18 in the game. But when he went to his off­speed stuff, it was suc­cess­ful. He of­ten went to the changeup in two-strike counts and picked up four of his six strike­outs on the pitch.

‘‘It was in the game plan to throw more curve­balls and heaters against this team,’’ said Hen­dricks, who yielded one run and six hits in six in­nings. ‘‘Changeup just isn’t feel­ing good last out­ing and this out­ing. That’s just some­thing I have to fo­cus on in my bullpen. In-game, we just made the ad­just­ment to go to more heaters and curve­balls.’’

The of­fense, mean­while, gave him enough sup­port. For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game, the Cubs’ newlook lineup scored eight runs and got a lift from the top of the or­der.

Af­ter a sin­gle by Con­tr­eras and a dou­ble by An­thony Rizzo in the fourth, Javy Baez am­bushed Pi­rates re­liever Nick Tro­peano with a tow­er­ing three-run homer into the left-field seats to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. They would send nine men to the plate in the in­ning.

The Cubs broke the game open late, adding two runs in the sev­enth and three in the eighth. Ian Happ, Con­tr­eras, Rizzo and Baez com­bined to go 8-for-20 with three dou­bles, a homer and six RBI in sup­port of Hen­dricks, who evened his record at 4-4 with his first qual­ity start since Aug. 17.

GENE J. PUSKAR/AP

Cubs starter Kyle Hen­dricks al­lowed one run and six hits and struck out six in six in­nings Wed­nes­day against the Pi­rates.

AP

The Cubs’ Javy Baez is greeted by Will­son Con­tr­eras af­ter his three-run home run.

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