Where would the Cubs be without Kyle Hendricks?

In a season where Jake Arrieta has suddenly looked human and Jon Lester has given up 13 earned runs across just 4.1 innings in his last two starts, Hendricks has been the Cubs' most consistent and important starter.

Since June 18, the Cubs are 5-0 when Hendricks starts and just 3-15 when he doesn't.

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That stretch has Hendricks' manager comparing the young right-hander to Arrieta's miraculous second half last season.

"He's been kinda like a tone-setter, man," Maddon said. "It's not unlike what Jake had done last year. He's been that good. Just doing it in a different way.

"He's not this overpowering guy, but he's getting his punch-outs, he's not walking people, he's getting weak contact and he's pitching innings. He's done a great job."

With six shutout innings in Friday's win over the Texas Rangers, Hendricks now has a 2.41 ERA on the season, behind only Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner among qualified MLB starters.

Maddon pointed to Hendricks' start in Cincinnati on June 29 as a turning point in the 26-year-old's season. With a short bullpen that day, Hendricks had to grind out 117 pitches, which he believed to be his highest pitch count since early in his collegiate career.

 

Maddon felt that outing was a confidence boost for Hendricks to understand he has the ability to go that deep into games and still be effective. 

Since that point, Hendricks hasn't given up an earned run in 13.1 innings, allowing only seven hits and four walks while striking out six batters.

"Yeah, [my confidence] is high," Hendricks said. "Baseball players always talk about confidence being key. Right now, I'm making good pitches. My two-seam's moving well, my changeup's moving well off it. 

"So yeah, my confidence is pretty high right now."

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Hendricks said he showed up at Wrigley Field a couple times during the All-Star Break to throw and make sure his feel was still there after throwing just once in an 10-day span. 

As usual, he gave a hat tip to his defense after Friday's start, reiterating that he often relies on his teammates considering he doesn't have overwhelming stuff and pitches to contact.

But the key has been a lack of solid contact, with a career-high 27 percent soft contact rate coming into Friday's start.

Hendricks has always been a cerebral pitcher, utilizing gameplans and absorbing information constantly in between starts. But even he didn't visualize this level of success.

"Not exactly," he said. "I didn't even look forward in terms of the numbers. All I focused on is how I'm pitching, how I'm throwing, how my pitches are working.

"Ever since spring, I've felt good with all that. It's been consistent for me all year long, but as far as the results coming, that's just a byproduct of it."