If the Cardinals are in town, it must be Win Day for the Cubs.
The team that can’t seem to beat anyone else these days beat the Cardinals for the fifth consecutive time this season (sixth of seven overall) — this time 10-5 in Friday’s series opener at Wrigley Field.
A few observations from this cage battle for third place in the NL Central:
1. How the hell is Kyle Hendricks not an All-Star? The 2016 ERA champ pitched into the seventh inning again to win for the ninth consecutive decision and tie the Dodgers' Julio Urias for the major-league lead in wins (11). And for the nerds who say wins don’t matter, save it. You can tell that to the rest of the Cubs who were responsible for 18 losses in 23 games heading into Friday — when Hendricks extended his undefeated streak to 11 starts (2.56 ERA in that span).
“He’s our All-Star for sure,” manager David Ross said. “This guy’s been holding it down for us. When you talk about All-Stars, sometimes guys that have the big numbers or the velocities or the names get a little bit more of the nod there. But he’s definitely deserving of that.
“This guy has done nothing but go out there and take the bump and win baseball games for us.”
2. Boring: Hendricks continued his yawn-worthy career steamroll of the rivals from St. Louis, improving to 12-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 23 career starts against them — including wins in his last four starts (2.00 ERA).
3. Showcase showdown: Just in time to go up in the display window before the July 30 trade deadline, setup man Ryan Tepera was activated from the injured list (calf) on Friday and finished off the scoreless seventh for Hendricks and the Cubs.
4. Bang for the buck? Kris Bryant, who was out of the lineup for a second straight game because of an “achy” hamstring, came off the bench with the bases loaded in the seventh and banged a three-run double off the left-field wall on the first pitch he’s seen since Wednesday to break open a two-run game. Somewhere $cott Bora$ is taking note$.
5. SERIES WIN ALERT: By winning a series opener for just the second time in nearly a month, the Cubs need a mere split in the final two games before the All-Star break to actually win a series for the first time since … sweeping the Cardinals in the same place June 11-13.
They’ve gone seven series since then without winning one.
6. Sign this guy to an extension now. Of course, we’re talking about Willson Contreras, the two-time All-Star catcher who’s also in the argument for toughest SOB in the game.
Contreras, who walked and scored in the big first inning and doubled in the second, was clocked just above the bill of his helmet with a 98-mph pitch from Luis Garcia — knocked to the ground one direction as his helmet flew off in another.
Contreras then got right back up, headed to first, was checked by the trainer and stayed in the game.
7. Left wing party: Joc Pederson, the lefty-hitting outfielder who signed with the Cubs because he was promised a chance to prove he could hit lefties, raised his season average against them to .276 (16-for-58) with a two-out, three-run double to right in the first off Wade LeBlanc that set the tone for the Cubs’ big day, and an eighth-inning double off Brandon Waddell that led to another run. ... Oh, yeah: He entered the game hitting .218 against right-handers.
8. Trade winds in his sails: Lefty setup ace Andrew Chafin got in on the deadline-showcase game when he entered with two on and in the eighth to strike out Edmundo Soso to end the inning, and run his scoreless-appearance streak to 24. Did somebody say All-Star worthy?
9. Fan-dumb luck: The Cubs “caught” a break in the top of the first after Dylan Carlson led off the game with a base hit and a fan subsequently reached over the wall down the right-field line — and over right-fielder Jason Heyward in the field of play — to catch Paul Goldschmidt’s fly ball. Goldschmidt was called out because of fan interference, and the Cubs’ extra outfielder for the day was last seen being escorted from the seating area.
10. Thumbs up for Javy. Shortstop Javy Báez was a late add to the lineup after his sore thumb fared well enough in pregame work in the underground batting cage for him to declare himself fit to return after missing the last two games.
Then he picked up where he left off following those three straight two-hit games (16 total bases) with a first-inning single to load the bases ahead of Pederson’s big hit.
On deck: First pitch Saturday 6:15 p.m. It’s the Cubs’ Zach Davies (5-5, 4.28) vs. RH Kwang Hyun Kim (3-5, 3.39) in the Fox game of the week (670-AM radio).