September is in full swing and class is in session.
After a three-game skid that dropped the Cubs’ NL Central lead from 4 1/2 games to 1 1/2 in a little over 30 hours, Kyle Hendricks righted the ship on Monday, up to par with his customary end-of-regular-season success.
The Cubs offense, meanwhile, broke through with plenty of traffic, tallying 10 hits and five walks in a 5-1 win over the Cardinals.
Some quick takes from Monday’s season-series finale against St. Louis, which ends in a 5-5 split:
If Monday wasn’t Hendricks’ best start since Opening Day, it was pretty dang close.
Hendricks tossed eight innings of one-run ball, allowing seven hits and no walks while striking out four. Three of those hits were singles in the seventh inning, one dropping in front of right fielder Cameron Maybin, who appeared to lose it in Wrigley Field’s lights.
Hendricks was in control throughout the day and finished his outing at 97 pitches. It was the first time he went deeper than seven innings since that complete day shutout on Opening Day.
Including Monday, Hendricks' career ERA in September/October regular season action is 2.54, his best mark in any month.
The Cardinals infield made several mistakes on Monday and the Cubs made them pay in the fifth inning.
Javier Báez reached on a ground ball hit right to third baseman Matt Carpenter, whose throw to first carried Paul Goldschmidt off the bag. One pitch later, Kyle Schwarber hit a potential double-play ball to Kolten Wong, whose throw to second deflected off Paul DeJong’s glove and trickled into left field.
Báez advanced to third and Schwarber to second, and both scored one pitch later on a Willson Contreras single, putting the Cubs ahead 5-0.
Báez also reached on two infield hits, thanks to St. Louis’ defense. DeJong sat back on a grounder in the first, allowing Báez time to get down the line. In the third, Carpenter fielded a ball that might have rolled foul and had no play on Báez at first.
Ian Happ continued his impressive performance atop the Cubs lineup, hitting a double to start the game. He finished 1-for-2 with three free passes, and after Monday is hitting .304/.415/.734 in 22 games (94 plate appearances) in the top spot.
The Cubs and Reds start a three-game series Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Alec Mills (3-3, 5.50 ERA) and Tyler Mahle (1-1, 3.90 ERA) are the probable starters.