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."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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AP

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: