Kyle Hendricks pitched incredibly well Saturday afternoon. He threw the second complete game of his career as the Cubs beat the Phillies 4-1 for their fourth straight win, and yet I feel badly for Kyle.
Why? Because Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist let a catchable ball drop between them for a double by Freddy Galvis leading off the ninth. Without having heard anything from either of those players, I suspect it was simply a case of each of them thinking the other had the play. One of those things, it happens. Herrera advanced to third on a groundout and then after Hendricks struck out Ryan Howard, Miguel Montero dropped the third strike.
He looked Galvis back to third, then fired to Anthony Rizzo at first base to retire Howard. As he was doing so, Galvis took off for the plate and Rizzo's throw came in just a bit late, ruining Hendricks' shutout. He recovered and got Cameron Rupp to ground to third base to end the game, an excellent performance by Hendricks. If not for the missed pop fly, Hendricks might have thrown "a Maddux" (defined as a complete-game shutout with under 100 pitches).
He threw 104 pitches, 76 for strikes, striking out seven with no walks and had Phillies hitters off-balance all afternoon. Besides Galvis, just one other Phillie got past first base: Cesar Hernandez, who doubled with two out in the seventh. Hendricks set the tone for this one when Herrera bunted his way on base leading off the game. While Freddy Galvis, the next hitter, was at the plate, Hendricks picked Herrera off first base, one of the better pickoff moves I can recall seeing.
To tell you how rare this event was: The last Cubs pitcher not named Jake Arrieta to throw a complete game at Wrigley Field was Jeff Samardzija, three seasons ago, August 19, 2013 against the Nationals. Most of you know how big a Hendricks fan I've always been, and these are the types of games he can throw more often if he can harness his command, which he did excellently in this one. Beyond the pitching, he also blooped a single into right field in the second inning, which helped lead to the third Cubs run of the day. Hendricks was thrown out at the plate to end the inning after Heyward had doubled in that run. I didn't think it was a good send, not on a day with the wind howling out to left field and, at least early on it seemed as if the more runs, the merrier. Had Hendricks been held at third, the Cubs would have had runners on second and third with Kris Bryant coming to the plate.
All's well that ends well, I suppose. The wind hinted that there could be plenty of long balls in this one, and Dexter Fowler led off the first inning with a homer, the 16th leadoff homer of his career. Two more doubles in the inning, one by Heyward, one by Zobrist, made it 2-0 Cubs.
But no more home runs were hit at all; the Cubs' fourth and final run scored on an infield out in the sixth after singles by Bryant and Zobrist.
With this performance, Hendricks dropped his ERA at Wrigley Field this year to 1.65 in five starts covering 32⅔ innings, and he now has 28 strikeouts and just four walks at home. Overall his ERA dropped to 2.93 and his WHIP to 0.994, the latter of which currently stands eighth-best in the National League.
More on the Cubs' outstanding starting pitching this year:
#Cubs starters this season:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 28, 2016
2.52 ERA(!!), 300.1 IP, 220 Hits, 279 K, .206 Opp BA, 1.012 WHIP
The Nationals' starters are next-best at 2.89; no other team is under 3.00.
The game was also the fastest at Wrigley this year by a full 20 minutes, coming in at 2:18. It's a rare occasion when I can get home before 4:00 on the afternoon of a day game to begin writing. And not a drop of rain fell, so the sparing of the area from rain by the weather gods is appreciated, particularly after Friday's drenching.
The Cubs will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon (as well as their fifth straight win). Such an event has been a long time coming. The last time a Cubs team swept a Phillies team at Wrigley Field (or anywhere, for that matter) was almost 21 years ago: July 28-30, 1995. Time to change that. John Lackey will face Vince Velasquez in another 1:20 p.m. CT start.