Cubs: Kyle Hendricks missed too many spots in Wednesday’s loss

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

As efficient and effective as Kyle Hendricks was on Opening Day, he was just the opposite on Wednesday on the mound in what felt like a near-empty PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The veteran right-hander got roughed up for six earned in just 3 2/3 innings of work, as the Cubs dropped a 6-2 contest to the lowly Pirates.

Willson Contreras got things started, staking Hendricks to an early lead in the top of the first with a monster blast – his first homer on the year – but the Pirates answered right back via a Ben Game three-run shot over the 21-foot tall right field wall. From there, the home team never looked back, extending the lead to 5-1 on a Kevin Newman triple in the third and blowing things wide open.

It was a rough go of it for Hendricks, who, of course was very up-and-down in 2021. He started dreadfully, settled in for several months and then had the wheels entirely fall off late. The control just wasn’t there on Wednesday, evidenced by his four walks on the afternoon.

Hendricks was really plagued by first-inning struggles last year – evidenced by a .331 opponent batting average and 1.013 OPS. It was more of the same this time around and you have to hope he can get that sorted out sooner rather than later because digging yourself and your team an early hole is no way to win ballgames.

But it wasn’t all bad news on the pitching side of things – once Hendricks gave way to the pen, the Pirates didn’t score again.

Right-hander Michael Rucker, who worked to a 6.99 ERA in 20 appearances last season, came on in relief and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless frames. He was followed by the likes of Rowan Wick and Scott Effross, both of whom added clean innings of their own to finish things off.

Cubs got some solid offensive showings – including another Seiya Suzuki RBI

You might look at Jonathan Villar in the box score and see 1-for-4, but he was barreling the ball all afternoon long. I’d love to see him in there on a near-daily basis, especially given the struggles of Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom, the latter of whom went hitless with two more strikeouts in the loss.

Contreras had a nice afternoon, going 2-for-4 with the aforementioned homer and a double and, to nobody’s surprise, Seiya Suzuki drove in a run in a fourth consecutive game and also drew a walk – raising his OPS on the year to 1.524. Ian Happ cooled a bit from his white-hot start, striking out three times.

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Next. There's a chance the Cubs still keep Contreras long-term. dark

Now, it’s off to Colorado to take on Kris Bryant and the Rockies. Justin Steele will get the ball on Thursday. Let’s hope he can build off his 2022 debut rather than follow in Hendricks’ footsteps.