With Marlins leadoff hitter Corey Dickerson coming to the plate in the seventh inning, Cubs manager David Ross weighed his options.
“I trust in Kyle (Hendricks) right there,” Ross said after the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to the Marlins in Game 1 of a best-of-three Wild Card Series.
Dickerson hit a three-run home run.
Leading into that inning, Hendricks had thrown six shutout frames, although not without action. The Marlins had put a runner in scoring position with no outs for three innings straight, thanks to a combination of doubles and an error. But Hendricks had pitched out of each jam.
He walked back onto the mound in the seventh inning, with the bottom of the order coming up and his pitch count climbing into the 90s.
“I felt really strong,” Hendricks said. “Just like my previous outings, kind of got better as the game went along.”
Hendricks induced a soft comebacker for the first out of the seventh but then gave up singles to Miguel Rojas and Chad Wallach.
His pitch count was at 105, and Dickerson was coming up to bat.
“I thought he’d had some pretty bad swings,” Ross said, “and Kyle seemed to be in command of two of the three at-bats. He’s got pretty good history with him.”
Dickerson had lined out, walked and grounded out in his previous plate appearances.
So, Ross decided to leave Hendricks in the game. His other options were to bring in a left-handed reliver for the sake of a lefty-lefty matchup – but the three-batter minimum would have forced that reliever to face right-handed Starling Marte after Dickerson – or call on right-hander Jeremy Jeffress a batter early. Ross said he planned for Dickerson to be the last batter Hendricks faced, no matter the outcome.
With his 106th pitch of the day, Hendricks threw an outside fastball belt-high. Dickerson roped it into the first row of the left field stands. The 3-run home run gave the Marlins a 3-1 lead.
“I’d made good pitches to Dickerson all day long,” Hendricks said. “That wasn’t a bad pitch, he just jumped on it. He was sitting on it and he didn’t miss it. Put a really good swing on it, and it’s just unfortunate.”
Jeffress replaced Hendricks on the mound and gave up a single to Marte and two-run home run to Jesus Aguilar before getting out of the inning.