When spring training began, there was some question about whether Kyle Hendricks would even be in the Cubs' rotation. But a strong spring solidified his hold on the No. 5 starter role. Even then, when the Cubs had two rainouts in a week's time in April, his turn was skipped.
Well, that must have made him mad, or determined, or both, because since that nine-day layoff, Hendricks has posted a 2.23 ERA and 0.818 WHIP and he put together yet another stellar outing at Wrigley Field, eight innings of three-hit, two-run ball, and the Cubs smacked four home runs and won their series from the Dodgers with a 7-2 victory on an absolutely perfect weather afternoon at Wrigley Field, sunny, 78 degrees and a light breeze off Lake Michigan.
I'm particularly pleased with Hendricks' season, as I have long been a big fan of his, and you could make an argument that right now, he's the Cubs' No. 3 starter, not No. 5. He probably could have completed this game, having thrown only 101 pitches, but Joe Maddon opted for the chance to score some further runs with two runners on and two out in the eighth with pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella. TLS struck out, but it was a worthwhile chance to take.
Travis Wood threw a scoreless ninth, helped out by a game-ending double play started by Javier Baez, who had an excellent day in the field. Check out this slick diving catch [VIDEO] he made in the fifth inning off Carl Crawford, and this nice glove flip [VIDEO] off a Chase Utley grounder in the sixth.
Baez also contributed with his bat, hitting the first of four Cubs homers [VIDEO] with Jorge Soler on base in the fourth. That made the score 4-1 Cubs, as they had plated two in the second on RBI singles by Baez and Miguel Montero.
In the fifth, Jason Heyward hit his second homer of the year (and 99th of his career, good to see him have a two-hit day) and then Kris Bryant went back-to-back with this monster shot [VIDEO] that hit about a third of the way up on the left-field video board. Unlike some of the other video-board homers, the camera operator did catch the bounce off the board. It was Bryant's 13th homer, bringing him up to 40 RBI for the season, and this seems important:
Kris Bryant— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 2, 2016
2015: 99 RBI, 199 K
2016: 40 RBI, 49 K (including the one just now)#Cubs
One of the things Bryant was working on in spring training was leveling his swing to try to cut down on strikeouts. It's apparently worked without cutting down on his power; he's on pace now for 40 home runs. Anthony Rizzo, trying to keep up, completed the Cubs' scoring with this homer into the center-field basket [VIDEO] in the eighth inning, his 12th. It was his first homer since May 14, a 16-game drought during which he hit just .135/.270/.154 (7-for-52). Rizzo tends to run hot and cold, so hopefully this game, in which he also walked and scored, will start him on a hot streak.
Dodgers 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias, the victim of the first three Cub homers, has obvious talent, but still needs to harness his command. In two big-league starts he's thrown 7⅔ innings and allowed 13 hits and nine earned runs. Let's say I'm glad the Cubs don't have to face him for a while. He might not be that good now, but I think he's going to be.
Let's look at a few other things the Cubs accomplished with this win.
- They moved to a season-high 22 games over .500 at 37-15
- It was their 20th win at home, making them the first team to 20 home victories
- The five-run victory made the Cubs 19-3 in blowouts with that margin of victory or larger
#Cubs starting pitching this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 2, 2016
2.38 ERA (!!), 333.1 IP, 234 Hits, 312 K, .199 Opp BA (!!), 0.984 WHIP (!!)
#Cubs starting pitching last 7 games— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 2, 2016
1.12 ERA, 48.1 IP, 25 Hits, 47 K, .153 Opp BA, 0.766 WHIP
I ran out of superlatives to describe what this team is doing long ago. We are seeing things that haven't been done by any Cubs team in over a century, and even most other clubs haven't accomplished things like the Cubs are doing right now. The Cubs, 37-15 after 52 games, aren't too far off the pace of the last two teams to win 110 or more games, the 1998 Yankees (39-13) and the 2001 Mariners (40-12). Both of those clubs were in the midst of long winning streaks at the time, nine for the Yankees, 15 for the Mariners.
Can the Cubs run off a streak like those? I wouldn't put anything past this bunch.
Nice to see BCBer Ryan W. Kasten in the bleachers today. You picked a great afternoon and great game to see.
The Cubs open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. John Lackey goes for the Cubs and Archie Bradley for Arizona.