New York Mets

White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing's name brought up as Mets look for new manager

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USA TODAY

White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing's name brought up as Mets look for new manager

When the White Sox announced they parted ways with hitting coach Todd Steverson earlier this week, they added that the rest of the coaching staff will return in 2020.

But what if someone leaves to be the manager of the New York Mets?

Let's not go that far quite yet. But in the wake of Mickey Callaway's firing Thursday, one reporter brought up White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing as a name to keep an eye on as the Mets conduct their search for a new skipper.

McEwing has been with the White Sox for 12 years. He was the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte in 2008, the manager at Class A Winston Salem in 2009 and 2010 and the manager at Charlotte in 2011. He joined Robin Ventura's big league staff in 2012, working as the third-base coach for five seasons. He's been Rick Renteria's bench coach for three seasons.

White Sox fans got used to seeing quite a lot of McEwing, who managed a series and made mound visits for pitching changes and the like in the wake of Renteria's shoulder surgery this season. McEwing also serves as the White Sox infield coach, a role in which he's worked closely with Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada as they've continued to develop at the major league level.

McEwing spent more time with the Mets than any other team during his nine-year big league career, playing in Queens from 2000 to 2004. He was part of the Mets team that won the NL pennant in 2000.

With a couple big names on the managerial market, specifically former Cubs skipper Joe Maddon and former New York Yankees field boss Joe Girardi, the Mets might be looking to make a more sizable splash. But as that tweet mentioned, McEwing has come close to helming the Mets before. Something to keep an eye on.

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It wasn't smooth, but Cubs flipped the script on the road

It wasn't smooth, but Cubs flipped the script on the road

The Cubs absolutely hammered Thor and looked to be on cruise control for a laugher of a victory...only fans weren't laughing by the time the game ended.

The lineup tagged Noah Syndergaard for 10 runs in the first three innings, hitting a trio of 2-run homers en route to a 10-1 lead.

It was the worst outing for a Mets pitcher in nearly a decade:

It was also the Cubs' best performance against a single pitcher since August 2009:

But the offense was held scoreless from there while the pesky Mets lineup mounted a comeback with a 5-run fifth inning and threatened for more to turn a blowout into a nail-biter for a fanbase that has seen its share of blown leads on the road over the last few months.

Despite dealing for the first few innings, Kyle Hendricks wasn't around long enough to finish the fifth inning and earn the victory. It also meant Joe Maddon was forced to use most of his top relievers (Kyle Ryan, Steve Cishek, Rowan Wick, Craig Kimbrel) to close out a game that saw his team storm out to a huge lead before some New York fans had even settled into their seats.

In the end, the Cubs held on for a 10-7 victory, claiming their first true series win on the road in more than three months. It was also the first time they won back-to-back road games in the same city since April 30 and May 1 when they swept the Mariners in a two-game set in Seattle.

That makes four wins in a row away from Wrigley for the Cubs, including the victories over the Pirates in Pittsburgh and Williamsport earlier this month.

The Cubs lineup managed just three singles after the third inning, but the damage against Syndergaard was particularly impressive given he came into the game with a 1.82 ERA in eight second-half starts.

The offensive output was enough to give the Cubs a +1 run differential on the road this season after all their struggles. (They have a +66 run differential at home.)

With the Cardinals' loss in Milwaukee earlier in the day, the Cubs are now just 2.0 games back in the division and have a chance to sweep the Mets (though they will have to face reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom).

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Kyle Hendricks is figuring out a way to win the battle against himself

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USA TODAY

Kyle Hendricks is figuring out a way to win the battle against himself

If you had to give one Cubs pitcher the ball in a must-win game in October, who would you choose: Kyle Hendricks or Yu Darvish?

Darvish spun another gem Tuesday night and has been on a historic run.

But Hendricks has been no slouch, posting a 2.63 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in eight second-half starts. He gets the ball Wednesday night in New York opposite Noah Syndergaard as the Cubs look to win their second straight road series (and first "true" road series since late-May). 

Part of Hendricks' success lately can be attributed to his increased curveball usage, a pitch Joe Maddon and the Cubs have wanted him to utilize more often in recent seasons.

On the whole, the 29-year-old right-hander is throwing his curve 8.9 percent of the time in 2019 and the off-speed pitch is coming in the slowest it ever has (71.6 mph). Both the velocity and the different movement adds one more thing for opposing hitters to think about and look at beyond his fastball and elite changeup.

"It's been huge for me just not being a two-pitch guy," Hendricks said after his last start in which he spun 7 shutout innings against the Giants. "When you fall into that pattern, there are a lot more foul balls, your pitch count gets up. So just to present another look and the command I've had with it this year has probably been the best so far. 

"I'm still trying to work on it and get better, but it's helped a lot."

Hendricks believes another key for him this season has been taking a page out of Jon Lester's book. Cubs fans have seen it often over Lester's tenure in Chicago: Even after a rough start to a game, the veteran southpaw is able to adjust on the fly and completely change the tune of the outing. 

Hendricks lauded Lester's lack of stubbornness and ability to throw a gameplan out the window quickly if it's not working.

Hendricks feels like he can be too stubborn sometimes, trying to stay with the pregame plan of attack even if it's not working or he's not feeling great with a certain pitch. But he's trying to improve in that area and it's something he's always talking about with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello.

"I think it's just experience and knowing yourself," Hendricks said. "I know that I do it and now these guys know it, too — Borzy and Tommy. I come in after the first or second inning and we look at each other, it's like we already know I'm doing it again or I'm trying to stick with the 2-seam fastball. It's like, 'OK, maybe let's try this,' incorporate the curveball or whatever needs to be done just to get through the start.

"It's not always going to go according to plan. [The hitters] make adjustments just as quick as we do, if not quicker. Being able to realize that and just know what you need to do quicker, that's what I try to learn from [Lester]. He does that better than anybody I've ever seen."

One thing that certainly hasn't gone according to plan this season: Hendricks is a totally different pitcher on the road than he is at home. 

Class is clearly in session for "The Professor" at Wrigley Field, but time away from the Friendly Confines has not been kind to Hendricks:

2019 Home

5-2
1.79 ERA
0.81 WHIP
.189 opponent AVG

2019 Road

4-7
4.76 ERA
1.41 WHIP
.288 opponent AVG

The good news for Hendricks and the Cubs is things have started to trend in the right direction away from home.

In his four second-half starts on the road, Hendricks has a 3.32 ERA and 1.25 WHIP and almost all of that damage was done in one really rough start in Cincinnati on Aug. 10 (7 runs, 12 hits, 3 homers in 2.2 innings).

Still, it's confounding Hendricks would have such drastic splits. This is the guy who started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series in Cleveland and Game 1 of the 2017 NLDS in Washington D.C.

So what's been the issue this season?

"On the road, it's just depth perception, what does it look like?" Maddon said. "It's probably very comfortable [at Wrigley] when he looks into the catcher. When you pitch on the road, it's variable ballparks. He's pitched in some pretty high-leverage moments [on the road]. I don't know the answer.

"Listen, there's so many things about this year that it's really hard to evaluate or explain, whether it's the road record, what we do [at home], our day record vs. night, blah blah blah. And guys like him are outstanding and looks exactly the same from the side on the road or at home. It's just one of those years, man."

Heard that.

It's almost September and the Cubs still can't explain their head-scratching struggles on the road over the last few months. Why would Hendricks' big home/road splits be any different?