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Pirates 6, Cubs 5: What’s wrong with Kyle Hendricks?

The Cubs put together a ninth-inning rally that fell just short, but the bigger concern is with today’s starting pitcher.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Give this team credit.

Down by four runs in the ninth inning, they faced two Pirates relief pitchers — Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez — who, combined, coming into Sunday’s game had faced 77 hitters this year and allowed nine of them to reach base. That’s right, nine of 77 (two hits, five walks and a HBP), neither had allowed a run in 22⅓ innings.

The Cubs put together a tremendous comeback against that pair, with two hits, a hit batter and a walk, but came up just short when Javier Baez grounded out with the tying run in scoring position and the Cubs lost to the Pirates 6-5. It was the team’s fifth straight one-run game, and fortunately, they won the other four.

They wouldn’t have been in that position, down four to the Bucs in the bottom of the ninth, if not for yet another rough outing from Kyle Hendricks. It wasn’t all his fault — errors produced two of the six Pittsburgh runs — but Kyle did allow nine hits in five innings along with a walk.

He loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning on a pair of hits and the aforementioned walk, and nearly got out of the inning with just one run scoring on a groundout. But with two runners on, this happened [VIDEO].

I have watched that video several times and I still can’t see what made Jake Marisnick trip and fall and miss the catch that otherwise he makes easily. He immediately knew he had injured himself and left the game, replaced by Joc Pederson, with Kris Bryant moving to center.

Here’s what happened:

After the game David Ross said Marisnick will be re-evaluated tomorrow. If he has to go on the injured list — and you’d think even with the mildest kind of hamstring strain, 10 days off is a good idea — the Cubs will have a roster crunch. The only two position players on the 40-man roster who aren’t either a) active or b) on the injured list are Christopher Morel and Miguel Amaya, and I can’t imagine the Cubs wanting to start the service clock for either. The logical replacement would be Ian Miller, but that would require a 40-man roster spot.

So, as always, we await developments.

Back to that first inning: The Cubs would have gotten out of the inning down just 3-0, but Ildemaro Vargas made a throwing error on what should have been the third out and a fourth run scored. That turned out to be significant after that ninth-inning rally. That play was first ruled “hit plus error,” then “hit,” finally changed to “error,” making the last run off Hendricks in that inning unearned.

The Cubs got one of the four back in the second. Bryant led off with a double, and two outs later Pederson brought him in [VIDEO].

That RBI was significant for Joc:

We do trust you, Jordan. It happens.

The Pirates put two more on the board in the third thanks to a couple of hits and yet another error, this one on Matt Duffy, who’s usually pretty sure-handed at third base.

The Cubs got one of those back in the fourth. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single and Bryant walked. Rizzo took third on a fly to right and Jason Heyward’s groundout scored him [VIDEO].

After that not much happened for a long time. Hendricks departed for a pinch-hitter after five, and even though he got 10 out of his 15 outs on ground balls, that really wasn’t a good outing. Yes, it’s true that his defense deserted him on a couple of occasions and between that and the ball Marisnick missed, that cost him at least three runs. Still. the team’s got to get Hendricks right, and soon.

The Cubs bullpen did an outstanding job of keeping the Pirates off the board any further in this one. Justin Steele, Dillon Maples and Jason Adam threw four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk and striking out seven. Steele has to be rapidly getting closer to David Ross’ “circle of trust” among relief pitchers, as is Keegan Thompson. Between those two, the Cubs system appears to have produced some quality MLB pitchers.

Thirteen straight Cubs had been retired after Pederson’s second hit of the day in the fifth, but Rizzo broke that streak by being hit by the first pitch Crick threw. That one was called a ball on the field, but was overturned by the review crew:

Bryant walked after a wild pitch moved Rizzo up. A fly ball by David Bote that might have been out of the yard on a less-windy afternoon advanced Rizzo to third. The Pirates had seen enough of Crick and brought in Rodriguez to face pinch-hitter Nick Martini. Why was Martini batting for Heyward?

Oh. As if the Cubs don’t have enough injury issues right now.

Martini put together a great 10-pitch at-bat, but struck out.

With two out, Pederson made it a 6-3 game [VIDEO].

That was very nicely placed, Joc — and Pederson’s three hits in this game, two off a lefthander, are very encouraging for him.

That brought up Ildemaro Vargas as the tying run... and he brought the Cubs within one [VIDEO].

That also put the tying run in scoring position for Javier Baez, who was held out of starting this game due to back issues that forced him out of Saturday’s contest. It’s entirely possible those back issues were responsible for some of Javy’s errors in this homestand, too.

Anyway, Baez also put together an excellent at-bat against Rodriguez, running the count full and fouling off two pitches before grounding out to end it.

So, again, give this Cubs team credit for grinding out some really good at-bats in the ninth inning and not giving up. That will serve them well going forward.

Further, the 5-1 homestand gives them a 13-8 record at Wrigley Field. That’s a .619 winning percentage that would equate to a 50-win season at home. Now they just have to figure out how to win on the road, where they are 4-9. This was exactly the issue in 2019, when the Cubs were 51-30 at Wrigley, but 33-48 away from home. Win 50 games at home and play .500 on the road and that’s a 90-win season that could be enough to win the NL Central.

And please, Kyle Hendricks, right what’s wrong.

The Cubs will have Monday off and then work on improving that road record in a two-game series at Cleveland. Adbert Alzolay will start Tuesday for the Cubs against Cleveland ace Shane Bieber. Game time Tuesday is 5:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.