After another rough start last week against the Phillies, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said it was “super important” to finish out the season and make his final few starts as scheduled.
“I just have to be much better for this team going forward,” Hendricks said.
Wednesday’s start against the Twins was a step in the right direction.
Hendricks allowed four runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking none. Three of the runs came on a pair of home runs by outfielder Max Kepler. The other run was unearned, scoring on an error on a groundball hit to Matt Duffy.
Hendricks threw only 72 pitches and induced 10 groundballs.
“I think that was much more characteristic of how Kyle goes about his business,” manager David Ross said after a 5-4 loss to the Twins. “Kepler had his number tonight, but I loved the groundballs.
“We saw a lot of weak contact. Being aggressive, efficient. Really efficient tonight. Could have let him go as long as we needed, really, in that game. Threw the ball really well.”
It was an encouraging performance after some of Hendricks’ recent outings. He entered the night with a 9.08 ERA over his last seven starts, going five or less innings four times, bloating his season ERA to 4.81 through 30 starts.
He allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies last week, and the Cubs discussed limiting his workload the rest of the season. Hendricks is among the MLB leaders in innings pitched this season, after finishing third in the shortened 60-game 2020 campaign.
This is also his first time, other than his rookie year, pitching in September with the Cubs eliminated from postseason contention, which Hendricks said has been an adjustment.
"You try and go out there with the same mindset every time and it's just one pitch at a time," Hendricks said. "Execute one pitch, move on to the next one, execute that one.
“So when everything's going good, that's where I'm at. But for me, it just hasn't been locked in lately, so we've just kind of made a switch to go in tonight with one or two goals I'm really trying to accomplish and go from there.
"Make sure I do it and make myself better and set myself up for next year."
The Cubs need Hendricks back in form next year. He's the only starter on the current staff guaranteed to be in the 2022 rotation.
He has two scheduled starts remaining to build off Wednesday's performance heading into the offseason.
“If I'm healthy, I'm going to be pitching no matter what,” Hendricks said. “Just to get a good feeling going, a good rhythm again, making sure I can get and execute pitches when I need to, really that's all we're kind of focusing on.
“I was happy I was able to go out there and execute most of them today."