Chicago Cubs: Magic number falls to five as Kyle Hendricks dominates

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Kyle Hendricks turned in yet another stellar start and the bats got to work early as the Chicago Cubs took down the rival White Sox on Sunday afternoon.

As the 2018 season continues, Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks just gets stronger and stronger. The former National League ERA champion twirled another gem on Sunday afternoon, helping the Cubs clinch the Crosstown Cup and drop their magic number to five heading into the season’s final week.

Of course, that number refers to a combination of Milwaukee losses and Cubs wins. You’d certainly like to have that wrapped up before the Cardinals come to town this weekend, but we’ll see how that plays out.

More from Cubbies Crib

That’s a discussion for another time. Back to Hendricks.

The soft-tossing ‘Professor’entered Sunday coming off an 8 2/3-inning outing against Arizona. Really, you didn’t think he could do anything to match such a performance. But you’d be wrong. Hendricks turned in 7 2/3 innings of one-run, four-hit ball. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.

In 32 2/3 September frames, the righty has walked just four batters – a testament to how well he’s locating his change-up and breaking ball. On Sunday, he also showed he can still raise the eye level of the hitters, ensuring they don’t sit on his stuff low in the zone.

His continued strong performance dates back to Aug. 15. Since that date, he has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start, with the Cubs winning five of those seven starts. His trajectory has largely followed that of Jose Quintana, who has been a true second-half arm for Joe Maddon this year.

Two huge pieces to Cubs’ postseason plans

Around the mid-season point, we all knew one thing: Chicago had to get Hendricks and Quintana on-track. In June, Hendricks pitched to a 7.03 ERA in five starts. He hardly resembled the guy who seemed ready to take the title of ‘ace’ from Jon Lester after the 2016 campaign.

But, since that point, he’s been much more dependable, with a sub-3.50 ERA in each of the last two months and a mark near 1.50 in September. In short, he’s been the guy you’re going to need to slot in behind Lester when the postseason kicks off.

One week to go - do you have your Cubs gear?

Chicago Baseball Cuffed Beanie
Chicago Baseball Cuffed Beanie /

Chicago Baseball Cuffed Beanie

Buy Now!

Buy Now!

Even if (God forbid) they Cubs wound up in the Wild Card play-in game and threw Lester, lining up Hendricks as your Game One starter in the NLDS is far from an issue.

As for Quintana, I’m sure most of you have this weekend’s start in your mind – but he’s been much more than that for much of the second half. He’s pitched to a 3.47 ERA this month, striking out 27 in just 23 1/3 innings of work.

At this point, he’s probably your piggy-back guy in the staff – meaning he won’t necessarily line up as a projected starter come October. Those honors fall to Lester, Hendricks and Cole Hamels. That being said, we’ve seen Maddon go to that fourth guy. Which, of course, would be Quintana.

Next. There's absolutely no need to worry about Hamels. dark

Now, the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for a final week of regular season action. Chicago welcomes in the Pirates starting Monday night before closing things out against St. Louis. One week with a division crown on the line.

And all the right guys are clicking. Let’s go.