Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks tasked with tall order in Game 3


After a pair of tough losses in the Big Apple, the Chicago Cubs will look to an unlikely man in Kyle Hendricks in a pivotal Game 3 Tuesday night.

To say the Chicago Cubs’ first two games in the National League Championship Series in 12 years were underwhelming would be an understatement.

Joe Maddon‘s young club, whose offense was firing on all cylinders in the NLDS, went ice-cold, tallying just three runs over the course of the first two games, allowing the New York Mets to take a 2-0 series edge into Wrigley Field.

The regularly-powerful bats of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber have gone a combined 4-for-21 (.190) in the series with just one RBI – and that came late in Game 1, when Schwarber belted a 460-foot bomb in the eighth.

Rizzo has been particularly troubling this postseason, although most fans don’t seem to notice given his two long-balls against the Cardinals in the Division Series. On a whole, the left-handed-swinging slugger is batting just .167/.259/.417 in the postseason with just two walks to his credit.

But Maddon and the Cubs are looking to put that all behind them ahead of Game 3, a matchup that you almost have to consider a “must-win” given the Mets have a chance to take a 3-0 edge in the best-of-seven series with a win Tuesday.

To do that, they’ll need two things: a revival of the offense, which has been more famine than feast so far in the series, and a quality outing from the soft-tossing right-hander Hendricks.

The 25-year-old sophomore hurler made one start for Chicago in the NLDS against St. Louis, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 Game 2 win. From there, the Cubs ran off two more wins, capturing their first NLDS since 2003.

So what can we expect to see from Hendricks on Tuesday?

You’d have to be happy if he pitches into the fifth and limits the Mets’ offense to two runs – I can’t imagine Maddon is looking for much more than that before he’d hand things over to the bullpen, which has been solid so far this postseason.

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As we’ve seen all season-long, Hendricks’ success is dictated by his ability to locate his pitches. This sounds like an obvious statement, as pitch location is critical to virtually every big league hurler’s success, but given he lacks the overpowering repertoire some have, the importance is only magnified.

Good news for the Chicago Cubs is that Hendricks’ earned run average was over a whole run better at the Friendly Confines than on the road this season, and some peripherals (strikeout-to-walk ratio, SO/9, WHIP) also bode better at home.

After walking all over St. Louis, most fans expected Chicago to head back to Wrigley up 2-0, or at the very worst split 1-1 with New York. However, after the offense fell flat and Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester failed to pick up the slack, the Cubs are in a very undesirable position.

But, as they say, it’s October and anything can happen. Maddon has his group loose and ready for what will no-doubt be a thrilling atmosphere.

Now, it’s up to Kyle Hendricks to write a chapter in Chicago Cubs’ history.

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