Chicago Cubs: Professor Meltdown
3. Hendricks’ 60-day meltdown keeps Cubs from getting ahead – The Chicago Cubs were firing on all cylinders in early June. The team had beaten the Colorado Rockies in Wrigley two out of three games. Then the St. Louis Cardinals came to Chicago for a three-game series and the Cubs swept their longtime nemesis. Chicago then went on the road against the Rockies but garnered the same result as their home series, as they walked out of Coors Field, again, winning two out of three games.
The Cubs had momentum at this point on June 12 with a record of 38-29, sitting second in the NL Central standings, just a half-game behind the Milwaukee Brewers and waiting to sit the rest of the month in first place. Joe Maddon’s club headed to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers in a four-game road series. Things were looking bright and sunny for the Cubs hoping to split or win the series in L.A.
After blowing the first game 3-7, the Cubs brought on right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who had been wreaking havoc across baseball up until that day. Hendricks had one of his worst appearances of the year that second night, permitting five runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before this night, Hendricks was leading the Cubs in innings pitched, had a 3.36 ERA (132 ERA+) and a 4.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio during his first 14 starts of the season.
Hendricks threw 31 pitches in the first inning against the Dodgers and lasted 2 2/3 innings total, which was the second-shortest start of his career. After the game, Hendricks went on the 10-day IL and the Cubs began their slide down going (5-5) over the next 10 games. They somehow held onto first place during this time, more because of the woes of Milwaukee and St. Louis than anything else.
When they won or when they lost, they stayed in first place. So the Cubs squandered their momentum and their first place seat by never separating themselves from the Brewers and Cardinals in that time.
Hendricks did not return to the Cubs lineup until July 2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which the Cubs lost on the road 1-5 but remained in first place. After losing his “return” game, Hendricks was on the wrong side of winning games, four total, until July 31. In every contest other than his Brewers loss, Hendricks gave up earned runs.
Most of this time the Cubs remained deceivingly in first place. Hendricks finally won after almost 60 days when he pitched a seven-inning shutout against the Cardinals 2-0. The Cubs however were now in second place, and one game back behind the Cardinals. Hendricks’ 60-day meltdown in the middle of the season cost the Cubs the momentum to pull ahead in their Division.