Cubs

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

PITTSBURGH (AP) Kyle Hendricks spent the first weeks of 2017 trying to recapture the stuff he dealt so easily a year ago while posting the best ERA in the majors.

Sometime in the third inning against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, everything sort of clicked. It had to if the Chicago Cubs wanted to have any chance of beating Gerrit Cole.

Hendricks limited the Pirates to four singles over six innings and the Chicago's bullpen did the rest as the Cubs took advantage of another error by Pittsburgh's shaky distance to hold on for a 1-0 victory. Hendricks struck out three and walked two in easily his best performance of the young season for the defending World Series champions.

While Hendricks (2-1) isn't ready to say his early struggles are behind him, he took a step forward as the Chicago won for the sixth time in seven games.

"It's just one start," Hendricks said. "It's not a `back' thing. I'm not in the zone, dialed in like I was last year. That was a completely different feeling and sensation (but) felt a lot better. It's more on track."

Hendricks became the first Cub in nearly 80 years to lead the majors in ERA (2.13) last season but took the mound on Tuesday with the number at 6.19. It dropped to 4.50 after he kept Pittsburgh off balance with his mix of breaking balls and changeup to go with a fastball that only reaches the mid-80s but can find the corners when he's on.

"He looked much more like he did last year," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said.

Chicago's bullpen did the rest, with Wade Davis working a perfect ninth for his fifth save. Addison Russell doubled in the second off Cole (1-3) and scored when second baseman Alen Hanson airmailed first base on a Jason Heyward grounder, the Pirates' major league-high 20th error this season. They've also allowed 15 unearned runs, the most in the big leagues.

"I noticed that the runner wasn't running a 100 percent," Hanson said. "I just relaxed a little and tried to make the play. When I noticed that he was almost there, I released the ball and just threw the ball away."

The miscue spoiled a masterful outing by Cole. He struck out eight without issuing a walk and retired 14 of his final 15 batters. It wasn't enough for Pittsburgh, which has lost six of eight.

Cole only needed 78 pitches to get through seven innings but was pulled for pinch hitter Jose Osuna with the tying run on third and two outs in the bottom of the seventh against Chicago reliever Koji Uehara. Osuna flied out and Pittsburgh never threatened again.

"Guys are putting good swings on the ball," Cole said. "It's just the way this stuff goes sometimes. There's gonna be ups and downs throughout the whole year. You can't get frustrated."

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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