In this sprint of a 2020 60-game season, many MLB hitters have gone homer- and scoring-happy. Just since last Sunday there have been 14 games in which teams have scored 10 or more runs, and Friday night alone three teams plated 14 or more runs, the Braves scoring 15 with six home runs.
Kyle Hendricks and Rich Hill said “Hold my beer” Friday evening at Wrigley Field, matching up in a masterful pitchers’ duel that was a throwback to the days of Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson.
The Cubs scored a first-inning run and thanks to the efforts of Hendricks and Jeremy Jeffress, they defeated the Twins 1-0 for their fifth straight win. It was the Cubs’ first 1-0 win since August 22, 2019, a span of 85 games. Guess who pitched for the Cubs in that one? Yep, Hendricks, seven strong innings against the Giants that afternoon.
Friday, the Cubs put across a run in the first inning, and in fairly routine style. Anthony Rizzo, your favorite GLHOAT, led off with a walk. Then Rizzo stole second without a throw, his second swipe of 2020, apparently stunning the Twins with his audacity. Kris Bryant followed with another walk, and Willson Contreras put the Cubs ahead [VIDEO].
Three batters in, it’s 1-0 and I thought, “Well, maybe they can get Hill out of there early.”
But Hill calmly retired the next three Cubs hitters.
Hendricks, meanwhile, had been a bit shaky in the top of the first. He allowed a leadoff single to Byron Buxton, and two batters later wild-pitched him to second. That’s actually shocking for Kyle. It was Hendricks’ first wild pitch since April 19, 2019, when he uncorked one in the second inning against the Diamondbacks, a span of 3,349 pitches, and just his second wild pitch since 2016 — a total of two wild pitches in a span of 9,051 pitches. He also walked Eddie Rosario in that inning, but eventually got out of it with a groundout.
But after that 19-pitch first inning, Hendricks settled down. He allowed just two more baserunners the rest of the way, both on singles, and Buxton was the only Twins batter to get past first base off Hendricks, in part thanks to this slick caught-stealing play [VIDEO] pulled off by Contreras and Javier Baez.
Kyle departed after the eighth having allowed three hits, just the one walk, and striking out a season-high 10. Here are all 10 of Kyle’s K’s [VIDEO].
Here’s how dominant Hendricks was:
Willson Contreras on Kyle Hendricks:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 19, 2020
"When you have a pitcher that can get ahead in the count real quick like Hendricks, and then he can execute with two strikes, you have nowhere to go, but to the bench."
Hendricks walked 1 in 8 IP Friday night. That was his only 3-ball count.
Kyle often talks about executing his game plan. This is how he did that Friday:
Entering tonight, the Twins had a .341 SLG vs. curveballs (MLB rate was .384) and a .309 SLG vs. RH curveballs (.compared to .380 for all MLB).— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 19, 2020
Hendricks threw 28% curves tonight, up from 15.2% on the season, in his 8 innings.
Find out a team’s weakness and try to exploit it — that’s exactly what The Professor did.
This was the 4th time in Kyle Hendricks' career that he ended an outing with 10+ strikeouts and no more than 1 walk issued. Has lowered his ERA from 4.09 to 2.93 in September.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 19, 2020
Meanwhile, Hill was being just as stingy to Cubs hitters on a cool, 55-degree evening with the wind blowing in pretty strongly. The Cubs also had just two further baserunners off Hill after the first inning and neither got past first base. Tip o’ the cap to former Cub Hill, who’s always been tough on the team that drafted him in 2002.
The Cubs did get another pair of walks in the eighth off Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar, but pinch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas struck out to end the inning.
And so then it was up to Jeffress. The ninth didn’t start well, as Jeffress walked Buxton.
This is what sometimes drives me nuts about Cubs pitchers. Entering this game, in 114 plate appearances this season, Buxton had walked once. ONCE! And that walk was on August 3 — Buxton hadn’t walked in 99 plate appearances since then. How do you walk someone like that?
Fortunately, it took Jeffress only four pitches to right that wrong, and look at how perfectly positioned the defense is here — and the excellent turn that Javy took in completing the double play:
And it was a pretty GIDP via Hoerner and Javy... pic.twitter.com/46hVJ71NC5— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 19, 2020
Jeffress wrapped things up for his eighth save with this nice K of Rosario [VIDEO].
The Reds defeated the White Sox Friday, and the Cardinals swept a doubleheader from the Pirates. St. Louis (24-24) and Cincinnati (26-26) are now tied for second place, though this postseason seeding list gives second place to St. Louis for now, probably because the Cardinals have fewer losses. That makeup doubleheader the Cardinals have with the Tigers is now looking more and more likely to be played on Monday, September 28.
The Cubs’ magic numbers thus stand as follows:
The Cubs will go for their sixth consecutive win Saturday evening at Wrigley Field. Alec Mills will make his first start since his no-hitter last Sunday and he’ll face Michael Pineda. Game time is again 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network, and also on ESPN+ (subscribers only, outside the Cubs and Twins market territories).