If the Cubs are to get where they want to go this season — starting with October — they’ll need a big September from starter Kyle Hendricks.
So far, so good.
Hendricks delivered a quality start against the Pirates on Wednesday, a 8-2 Cubs win. It was a nice bounce back effort after he labored through an Aug. 22 start against the White Sox and allowed five earned runs on 10 hits Friday in Cincinnati.
For the Cubs, Hendricks’ outing was a positive sign for a rotation now down two starters. José Quintana hit the injured list with left lat inflammation, which followed Tyler Chatwood hitting the IL Tuesday with a forearm strain. With the rotation thin on depth, Hendricks (4-4, 3.78 ERA) becomes even more important to the Cubs' postseason chances.
Some quick takes from the win:
Class is in session
School starts back up as the calendar flips to September, so it’s no surprise that class was in session with "The Professor" on the mound Wednesday at PNC Park.
Hendricks, who’s enjoyed great regular season success in September/October during his career, delivered six innings of one-run ball. He allowed six hits and two walks, also striking out six.
The extent of the Pirates’ damage off him was a second-inning home run by Colin Moran. Otherwise, Hendricks kept them at bay; Pittsburgh left six men on base against Hendricks and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
Hendricks called his outing "a grind" and said his timing was off. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras told him early in the game he was rushing, and Contreras said Hendricks got better as the game progressed. Hendricks said the best he felt was in the sixth inning and hopes he can build off that.
"Even when he’s not as sharp as he can be, he finds a way to get outs," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He finds a way to throw strikes, he doesn’t walk guys. He’s not gonna put himself in a lot of trouble.
"Very good outing for him, especially with not being on his ‘A’ Game, I would say."
Hendricks now has a 2.60 ERA in 32 career September/October regular season starts. Only his 2.56 ERA in 29 career July outings (28 starts) is better.
Cubs shortstop Javier Báez hasn’t gone on the type of offensive tear that we’re accustomed to seeing from him yet this season. But on Wednesday he showed with one swing that he’s still very much a threat at the plate.
After a Willson Contreras single and Anthony Rizzo double to start the fourth inning, Pirates starter Joe Musgrove exited the game, leading 1-0. Nick Tropeano replaced him but didn’t have any time to settle in. Báez crushed his first pitch of the night, a splitter middle-down, into the left field bleachers for a three-run homer. The blast traveled 443 feet.
Báez has hit cleanup the last two games, his primary lineup spot in 2019. It’s no secret the Cubs need him to get going offensively in September, especially because he’ll have more RBI chances hitting fourth.
The Cubs tacked on two more runs in the seventh and three in the eighth but Báez’ blast proved to be the difference.
Just have fun
“Our dugout is definitely at times kind of over the line, but during this year you have to kind of just find a way to make it fun and just goof off in the dugout and everybody on this team has found a way to do that.” –Kris Bryant on the Cubs dugout’s loud chants and cheers each game.
The Cubs and Pirates conclude their three-game series on Thursday at 12:35 p.m. CT. Alec Mills (3-2, 5.23 ERA) and JT Brubaker (0-0, 4.50 ERA) are the probable starters.