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The 12 Days of Cubsmas: 12 ground balls in a Kyle Hendricks Maddux

Let’s take a closer look at one of the best games of 2019

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
Kyle Hendricks pitches against the Cardinals in September
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Hendricks is a sneaky good pitcher. He’s low key, unassuming and his velocity maxes out right around 90 - if he’s pushing himself. And yet, every time he takes the mound he just gets guys out. He’s a master of location and was one of the Cubs pitchers who somehow managed to give up fewer home runs in 2019 despite the rocket ball.

For the 12th Day of Cubsmas I wanted to look at one of the best games of Kyle’s career and one of my favorite games of 2019. Don’t worry, we’re not going to look at 12 ground balls, but I did want to use that as a way to write about his 81-pitch complete-game shutout of the Cardinals on May 3.

By a quirk of the schedule the Cubs and Cardinals did not face off for the first month of 2019. May 3 was the Cardinals’ first trip to Wrigley Field and the Cubs didn’t travel to St. Louis until the end of the month. After a rocky start the Cubs were finally starting to put together some wins and they were a game and a half behind St. Louis in the N.L. Central as that Wrigley series began.

Kyle Hendricks delivered a game for the ages to welcome the Cardinals to Wrigley.

The pitches

Let’s start with the pitches. Hendricks threw 81 pitches, 63 of which were strikes. This wasn’t an over powering performance from Kyle. He does have games with a large number of strikeouts, but on May 3 he had just three. Critically, he didn’t walk anyone and while the Cardinals had four hits only one runner got past first base.

You can see all 81 pitches in this video from the Cubs:

There are a couple of things I love about this video. I love the back-to-back-to-back attempts to bunt at about 20 seconds (two of those resulted in outs). I also love how you can hear the crowd get more excited towards the end. They know what Hendricks was on the verge of accomplishing and appreciate it.

On this particular day Hendricks was relying on his sinker and no pitch he threw was faster than 88.3 miles per hour:

Pitch count and type
Baseball Savant

Here is every pitch thrown by location and result:

Hendricks pitch map from May 3

The Defense

One of the interesting things about this particular performance is just how different it could have been if a few balls had dropped slightly differently. Hendricks gave up a lot of hard contact in this game — it just all went right to Cubs players. Unlike some games in 2019, on this day the defense was on fire.

Javier Báez does El Mago things in the fourth [VIDEO].

Ben Zobrist lets Javy know he’s not the only one with slick slide moves one batter later [VIDEO].

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined for this Bryzzo special with this fun play in the seventh [VIDEO].

José Martínez was pretty sure he had a single with this hit in the eighth, Jason Heyward did this and told him to sit down [VIDEO].

Even the Professor had to crack a smile after this one [VIDEO].

On the 12th Day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me 12 ground balls in a Kyle Hendricks Maddux, 11 Cubs with at least 10 homers, 10 walk off losses, nine different starting pitchers, eight saves from non-closers, seven epic bat flips, six walk off wins, five games out of the playoffs, four Alec Mills starts, three Nico homers, two fWAR from Castellanos and a David Ross for manager.