Cubs Insider

Mayday! Why May can’t arrive fast enough for Hendricks, Cubs

Cubs Insider
Heyward

The reeling Cubs can’t hit, can’t pitch and, as they approach the end of their first losing April in seven years, can’t wait to turn the page on the calendar.

“Every day is one day closer to May,” Anthony Rizzo said, “and I love getting out of April.”

The lesson here, of course, is: Be careful what you wish for.

The Cubs’ fifth consecutive loss Wednesday — a 10-0 rout in Atlanta that also was their second straight shutout loss — offered roughly zero reasons to believe that May (or any other month this season) will look any better than April.

“We stinks,” said Cubs pitcher — Oh, wait (*checks notes*). That’s actually an old quote from a Cub in 2011, Carlos Zambrano.

But it’s not exactly a reach to see how that might get confused for what’s going on now with this team.

Here’s one that’s actually from a current Cub this week: “We feel fortunate we’re not 10 games out of first place right now.”

Jason Heyward said that after Tuesday’s 5-0 loss.

Within 24 hours, they looked like a team on the fast track toward Heyward’s hypothetical — if not a revival of Zambrano’s assessment.

They stinks?

The Cubs mustered just five hits for a two-day total of seven as they were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2019.

They finished the game with a parade of three position players mopping up the last two innings in relief — the only Cubs “pitchers” who didn’t give up any runs.

 

And their ace starter, Kyle Hendricks, got clobbered for two more first-inning homers — his seven seven first-inning shots matching the Nationals staff’s team total for the month — to finish off the worst April (1-3, 7.54 ERA) of his career.

“A perfect storm,” Hendricks said.

He was talking about his own struggles that have transcended what already was a career trend of slow starts in April.

But he might as well have been talking about a Cubs team that has been shut out more often in 24 games (five times) than it was in 60 last season. A team that has its first five-game losing streak since its September collapse in 2019.

A last-place team assured of its first losing April since 2014 — when it also finished in last place.

Perfect storm?

The utter lack of scoring outside of three double-digit splurges during the last homestand and continued struggles with starting pitching have not surprisingly conspired to produce one of the majors’ worst run differentials.

What’s more, there’s no comp for those simultaneous breakdowns during the post-2014 run of winning seasons that remaining core players and apologists like to cite.

“Hopefully it’s a good thing,” Rizzo said inexplicably when that point was raised Wednesday night. “I know everyone will settle in, a lot of guys that we can rely on. And hopefully it starts rolling and we continue to grind until then, and keep the spirits up.

“No one feels bad for anyone in our clubhouse. It’s on us to write our own story and continue to work and continue to push each other.”

If they’re going to write a story better than the current batch on the MyTeams App, they’d better come up with a compelling angle fast.

As much as anything, they need Hendricks to go from what he called “a low point” Wednesday to some semblance of the guy that earned the last two Opening Day starts for this team.

Maybe getting out of April will help historically slow starters Rizzo and Hendricks as Rizzo suggested?

Rizzo has career .238 average in April, the worst for any month, and this year he’s at .221 with a .781 OPS.

Hendricks? He’s 7-12 with a 4.78 ERA in April (and March) in his career — 63-39 and 2.96 the rest of the year.

“I know I haven’t been great in April,” he said. “I’ve never been like this, either. This is really bad right now.”

Is it mechanical? Mental? Is it too much of the Braves — who in two starts have hit seven of the 10 homers he’s allowed in April? Maybe he’s tipping his pitches?

Not even Hendricks seems to know.

 

“I’m just searching right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, the worst April for this team in seven years, the most forgettable month of baseball they’ve played at any time since is at least coming to its merciful end this week.

Not that May offers much breathing room on next week’s schedule for a team that struggled to split six games with the tanking Pirates this month.

Hendricks’ next start would be Monday’s series opener at home against the defending-champion Dodgers.

Talk about Mayday.

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