Kyle Hendricks has been one of the Cubs’ most consistent starters through their three playoff seasons.
That’s why his recent outings have been so surprising, and especially Wednesday night against the Dodgers. Kyle allowed six earned runs in 2⅔ innings, the worst start of his career, and the Cubs lost the game 7-5.
Kyle isn’t sure what’s wrong:
#Cubs Hendricks: "I'm just searching right now. It's just bad. Mechanics, I'm trying to focus mentally and going pitch to pitch and I'm doing that but something's just off. I'm searching now."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 28, 2018
Well, he’s right: “Something’s just off.” Hendricks’ game is location, and he hasn’t had that for several starts now. He’s walked 15 hitters in 24⅓ innings in June, a rate of 5.6 per nine innings, far worse than his career rate of 2.2 entering the 2018 season.
What is causing this? Is it just mechanics? Or is Kyle injured? Maybe a 10-day DL stint would help him. There are two off days next week, perhaps skipping his turn in the rotation once would let him work on all these issues. He posted a 7.03 ERA and 1.685 WHIP in June, and yes, Kyle, that’s just bad. But he had enough sustained success over the last three-plus seasons that I’m sure he can work this out. Eventually.
This game actually started out quite well. Javier Baez doubled with two out in the first inning and Willson Contreras was next [VIDEO].
Contreras’ homer gave the Cubs an early 2-0 lead, but the Dodgers roughed up Hendricks for three runs in the first and three more in the second before he departed with two out in the third after having thrown 72 pitches, only 40 for strikes.
The Cubs got one of the runs back in the fifth. Ian Happ singled and moved to second on an infield out. Jason Heyward singled him in to make it 6-3.
Meanwhile, Brian Duensing, Dillon Maples and Luke Farrell were keeping the Dodgers at bay through the seventh. Maples, in particular, looked good in his first big-league appearance of 2018. He did issue a pair of walks in his two innings, but struck out three and was hitting 97-98 with his fastball. Better than that, Maples showed off a pretty good slider. He might still have a bit of work to do on his command, but he can clearly succeed at the major-league level.
Then the Cubs made the game close in the eighth. With one out, Heyward walked and Baez singled. Contreras was next, and he smacked a two-run double [VIDEO] into the gap in right-center. That made it 6-5, and Contreras took third on an infield out.
That brought in Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen for a potential four-out save. Jansen struck out Addison Russell to end the inning; unfortunately, Randy Rosario’s second pitch to Cody Bellinger in the bottom of the inning was deposited in the seats for Bellinger’s 16th home run, making it 7-5.
Would the Cubs have been able to tie the game off Jansen if not for that? They did score a run off him in Monday’s game. We’ll never know, of course, but Jansen took just nine pitches in the ninth to end it, despite a single by Ian Happ.
The good news from this game is that the Cubs put 10 hits and five runs on the board, and got a good offensive game from Contreras, who’s been rather quiet in the power department so far this year. But Willson is now on a five-game hitting streak in which he’s hitting .412/.444/.882 (7-for-17) with two doubles and two home runs. Small sample size, to be sure, but Contreras does have a tendency to go on hot streaks from time to time. Here’s hoping this one gets extended for many more games.
The Cubs still have a shot at a split in this series, though it will not be easy against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Jose Quintana goes for the Cubs. It’s an afternoon game at 2:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via NBC Sports Chicago.