HEN­DRICKS DE­LIV­ERS MUCH-NEEDED WIN

Hen­dricks hot for eight against Cardinals to help Cubs stop the bleed­ing

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

It wouldn’t be hy­per­bolic to call the Cubs’ game against the Cardinals on Mon­day at Wrigley Field — a 5-1 vic­tory — their big­gest of the short­ened sea­son.

Af­ter three con­sec­u­tive losses to the Cardinals on Satur­day and Sun­day, the Cubs’ once-large lead in the Na­tional League Cen­tral had with­ered to 1½ games, putting the onus on them to play like a divi­sion leader. They also needed right-han­der Kyle Hen­dricks to pitch like an ace or risk their lead shrink­ing to half a game.

They got both, with Hen­dricks play­ing stop­per and find­ing his sig­na­ture form.

“That’s the ver­sion of Kyle that I think we’re used to see­ing,” man­ager David Ross said.

It had been awhile since Hen­dricks (5-4) had ev­ery­thing work­ing, in­clud­ing fast­ball com­mand and his full four-pitch mix. But Hen­dricks, who had grinded his way through his last start Wed­nes­day against the Pirates with only three of the four pitches, had it all hum­ming as he nav­i­gated his way through a Cardinals lineup that had done dam­age over the weekend.

“I thought he read swings re­ally well,” Ross said. “I thought he com­manded the fast­ball as well as I’ve seen this year — maybe since his first start. So, yeah, he was re­ally, re­ally spot on.”

Out­fielder Cameron May­bin, who joined the Cubs af­ter a trade from the Tigers last week, agreed.

“I’ve had a chance to face [Hen­dricks], and it can be a frus­trat­ing at-bat, and you saw that to­day,” May­bin said. “On the other side fac­ing him for a long time, I [used to] tell my other team­mates, ‘You know we’re fac­ing Baby [Greg] Mad­dux,’ be­cause he can throw the ball wher­ever he wants to throw it.”

Hen­dricks ad­mit­ted af­ter throw­ing a sea­son-low 18 change­ups against the Pirates that his off­speed pitch hadn’t been feel­ing great, but it was ef­fec­tive Mon­day and helped him in­duce two of the Cubs’ three dou­ble plays.

“It was weird,” Hen­dricks said. “It was just one of those things where af­ter the Pitts­burgh start, the day af­ter, I go out to play catch real light. and my changeup was the best it’s felt that day. It kind of just came from there. [In] my bullpen, it was re­ally good, and again to­day. That’s just how it works. It’s such a feel pitch that it just ended up be­ing there af­ter this last start. So hope­fully, we can keep it right where it is, be­cause that’s ob­vi­ously a big pitch for me.”

Hen­dricks pitched eight in­nings of onerun ball, al­low­ing seven hits, and capped off the stel­lar out­ing by fanning Kolten Wong for his fourth strike­out of the game.

It was Hen­dricks’ long­est out­ing in more than a month and his long­est since throw­ing a com­plete-game shutout against the Brew­ers on Open­ing Day. He didn’t al­low a walk and set a Cubs fran­chise record with his 38th con­sec­u­tive start with two walks or fewer — the long­est such streak by a Cubs pitcher since at least 1901.

“In the back of your mind, you know the im­por­tance of the game,” Hen­dricks said. “You know what we’ve got com­ing up with no off days and don’t want to tax the bullpen. But you can’t re­ally pitch that way.

“Guys were mak­ing plays be­hind me. Those three dou­ble plays were huge, and then great at-bats, just keep adding on runs to in­crease the lead there, so I could keep be­ing ag­gres­sive. Ev­ery­thing kind of clicked to­day.”

NUCCIO DINUZZO/GETTY IM­AGES

Kyle Hen­dricks, pitch­ing in the sec­ond in­ning Mon­day, held the Cardinals to one run in eight in­nings as the Cubs avoided a fourth straight de­feat.

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