Chicago Cubs take opener from the Reds behind Kyle Hendricks

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

I’ll admit, I was worried about the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks to start the year. In his first five games, he was 1-4 with just one strong start. That Kyle seems so long ago.

Coming out of the gate, not many of the Chicago Cubs pitchers were pitching very well. Starters, relievers. They were all bad. It seems like a season ago. But as recently as April 26, Kyle Hendricks was sitting at 1-4, having just allowed seven runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in five innings. His ERA was 5.33, and he was nothing like the pitcher he had been the past few seasons. Deep breath….exhale. And, we are back.

In Hendricks last three games, he pitched a 25 of potential 27 innings, allowed just one run, struck out 17 and walked only one–his last hitter in last night’s 3-1 win against the Cincinnati Reds. Outside of a sinker that stayed over the plate to Joey Votto that he took yard, that and the walk were the only ‘blemishes’ on the night. It was soft contact and broken bats all night long. Votto seemed to be one of the only ones dialed in, but had just the home run to show for it.

And if his sparkling pitching performance wasn’t enough? Hendricks collected three hits on the night, including a double in the second that scored the first two–and winning–runs of the game. He came into the contest at 1-for-15. He went from a .066 to a .211 average in just one game.

The defense didn’t need to get involved that often in the game. But when they were needed, they rose to the occasion. In the bottom of the fifth, Derek Dietrich hit a deep fly ball to left center. Dietrich took a second to ‘pose’ for it–but he should have just stayed where he was at after the pose. It was closer to the dugout.

Kyle Ryan and Steve Cishek teamed up in the ninth and did their jobs, closing out the game for another stellar Hendricks win. One of the few downsides of the last few games has been the absence of Anthony Rizzo. Following the 15-inning game, he woke up the next day with back tightness. It’s been a recurring issue for Rizzo is his career, and caused a trip to the IL last year. He’s missed the last two games, but the Cubs will need to make a decision if they don’t want to play with a short bench.

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While last night was a tremendous pitching matchup, tonight might not provide that. The Chicago Cubs’ Yu Darvish (2-3, 5.40) takes on the Reds Sonny Gray (0-4, 4.15). Darvish has gone six innings just one time this season in a win versus the Diamondbacks on April 27. Since then, he’s gone four twice, with pitch counts of 81 and 97. He could take a lesson from Hendricks and look to not ‘waste’ pitches.