Despite a Chicago Cubs loss, Kyle Hendricks did his part, twirling 8 1/3 innings of quality ball – by far his longest outing of the 2018 campaign.
Outside of All-Star lefty Jon Lester, the Chicago Cubs haven’t received much from its starting rotation. A precipitous drop-off from Lester to Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and the rest of the rotation clearly exists, at least, it has to this point.
But, the linchpin in the rotation, Hendricks showed he’s ready to step back into that co-ace role he held in each of the last two seasons. Although the Cubs fell to the Giants in extras, the soft-tossing right-hander gave his team everything he had in his best start of the season.
Tossing 8 1/3 innings in which he allowed just one unearned run, Hendricks finally had that pinpoint location we’ve come to expect. Of course, that trademark facet of his game lacked greatly in recent months. He’s often left pitches up in the zone and hitters have punished him a big way. But, at least for one night, he had it all working.
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"“It was a much better feeling out there,” Hendricks said. “The fastball command was finally there and it just opened up the rest of the game for me. Willy and I were just really on the same page, mixing pitches, keeping them off balance, and that’s the game I have to play.”"
Hendricks’ deepest start in a long, long time
It had been almost a month and a half since Hendricks pitched past the sixth. Just how rare was this outing? The last time Kyle Hendricks pitched this deep into a game? Aug. 1, 2016 – a complete game effort against the Miami Marlins. He failed to pitch eight innings in any of his 24 outings, a year in which he took a step backwards from his Cy Young finalist 2016 season.
With Milwaukee losing again, the Cubs remain 1 1/2 games back in the National League Central. But if Chicago hopes to leapfrog the Brewers in the second half, they have to have the Kyle Hendricks they’ve come to expect. It can’t be the guy struggling to keep the ball in the ballpark on a nightly basis.
Quality is everything for Hendricks, Cubs
That being said, we don’t need 100-plus pitch efforts, pitching into the ninth every time out, either. But if he can just give the Cubs quality starts when his turn in the rotation comes up, the gap between Lester and the rest of the rotation shortens in a big way.
"“That’s the outing we’ve been looking for with the hitting that we’ve been doing recently,” Maddon said. “Going forward, that becomes contagious sometimes, when you’ve got a guy that pitches like that. I really believe you could see that version of Kyle most of the time for the rest of the season.”"
Contagious? Let’s hope so. Because a Kyle Hendricks like we saw on Monday night in San Francisco could be the difference maker the Cubs need heading into the second half.