With the Cubs' season hanging in the balance, the organization will turn to Kyle Hendricks to be the stopper.
The New York Mets just worked over Cubs aces Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in the first two games of the National League Championship Series, and the Cubs can't afford to lose another game and put themselves in a deeper hole.
But Hendricks — who has all of one postseason appearance in his brief MLB career — is welcoming the pressure as he gets the ball in Game 3 of the NLCS on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
"It's awesome, man," Hendricks said after the Cubs' workout at Wrigley Field on Monday. "I'm excited. This is where we want to be. We've got to get this win.
"I mean, yeah, there's pressure. It's the playoffs. There's always going to be some pressure, but you've got to let the pleasure exceed that. We've heard Joe (Maddon) say it a lot.
"I'm just going to go out and try to have fun. This is why you play the game. This is why you want the ball. So pressure, in a way, is sometimes a good thing."
Hendricks also got the ball for another "must-win" situation in Game 2 of the NLDS in St. Louis earlier this month. The Cardinals had just beaten Lester in the series opener, and Arrieta was unavailable after throwing a complete game in the wild-card one-game playoff, so Hendricks was called upon to stop the bleeding and keep the Cubs from going down 0-2 in a five-game series.
Hendricks didn't finish the fifth inning or collect the win, but the Cubs got the desired result anyways and the 25-year-old right-hander helped jumpstart the offense with a squeeze bunt and then attacked the zone and threw strikes with his team sporting a five-run lead.
Hendricks gave up three runs — all on solo homers — in 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven in a 6-3 Cubs win.
"The last game, I thought he threw the ball really well," Maddon said. "Ran into a bit of trouble in the fifth, but he's the kind of guy that can put the ball on the ground. We've got to catch it."
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The Cubs have plenty of faith in Hendricks to help tilt the momentum in their favor in Game 3, even going up against Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
"Kyle works fast; he throws strikes," Cubs catcher David Ross said. "There's a lot of confidence. Actually, when Kansas City came here (in late September), I was talking to (Royals catcher) Sal Perez, and he was saying Kyle is one of the best guys they saw all year and some of the nastiest stuff because it all looks the same.
"We have extreme confidence in Kyle. ... We expect good things from Kyle. I personally have a lot of confidence in him."
After going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA in 13 starts as a rookie in 2014, Hendricks had an inconsistent season in 2015. He showed flashes of that rookie form but struggled with his mechanics at various points.
He feels like he's in the right groove now, as evidenced by three straight quality starts to close out the regular season and a solid outing in the NLDS.
"It's been a crazy year for me in particular," Hendricks said. "A lot of ups and downs. Had to work real hard with (Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio), made some mechanical adjustments.
"I've felt really good in my last four, five, six starts here. Finally back in my lane. Hopefully I can just keep it going tomorrow, find my lane, get the ball down and just stay in line."