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Cubs 6, Padres 0: The Professor conducts a master class

That was a joy to watch.

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

I told you Kyle Hendricks still had some good pitching left in him.

The Professor looked like the Kyle of old, becoming the first Cubs starter to record an out in the eighth inning this year. Then he went on to the ninth, and only a ninth-inning walk — his only one of the night — pushed his pitch count too high for him to complete a shutout. Scott Effross finished up by retiring Manny Machado and the Cubs had what was one of their best games of the year to date, a 6-0 domination of the Padres.

That’s the most runs they had scored in almost two weeks, since the 6-3 extra-inning win over the Braves April 27, the most in a nine-inning game since the 21-0 demolition of the Pirates April 23, and it equalled the total runs the Cubs had in their previous four games combined.

Beyond Hendricks’ outstanding game, the Cubs put together a varied offense that scored the six runs on 11 hits, and without a home run.

They took the lead in the first inning. Willson Contreras led off the game with a single and Seiya Suzuki doubled him in [VIDEO].

That is the sixth time in the last seven games that the Cubs have had a lead by the second inning, and fifth time they scored first. They just haven’t been able to hold these leads — except for the shutout win in Milwaukee May 1, and this game.

Some good defense was also being played. Check out this double play started by Patrick Wisdom in the second [VIDEO].

Another run scored in the fourth. Wisdom and Yan Gomes led off with singles, but the next two hitters were routine outs. Ian Happ then made the score 2-0 Cubs [VIDEO].

One more run came across in the fifth. Again, two singles (by Jason Heyward and Contreras) began the inning. Suzuki hit into a double play [VIDEO], but a run scored to make it 3-0.

Watch Suzuki trying to beat that double-play relay, because an inning later he left the game. Here’s what happened

In the seventh, Heyward singled with two out and stole second. Contreras beat out an infield ground ball, but a bad throw allowed Heyward to score to make it 4-0 [VIDEO].

Heyward then made this terrific diving catch to end the bottom of the seventh [VIDEO].

The Cubs scored two more in the eighth, but needed this overturned review call on Nico Hoerner beating a DP relay first [VIDEO].

After the out call was overturned, Cubs runners were on first and third and Happ doubled t in a run, and ... well, watch [VIDEO].

Check out Hoerner’s hustle that resulted in a second run scoring on that play, well done.

The only question that remained: Would Hendricks be able to complete the shutout? He entered the ninth inning having thrown 99 pitches. He struck out Jose Azocar on three pitches, but then threw seven to Jake Cronenworth, who walked. Seven more pitches from Kyle to Jurickson Profar made it 116, and even though Profar flied to left for the second out, that was enough for David Ross to call on Effross. It’s too bad — complete game shutouts are exceptionally rare these days — but that’s the third-most pitches Hendricks has ever thrown in a game, and the most since 2016.

Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

And look at who’s the first guy out of the dugout to lead the congratulations for a well-played team win — Kyle Hendricks. He has long been my favorite current Cub, and this game was, I believe, proof that he’s got a lot more good pitching left in him. Here’s hoping it continues. During the broadcast, it was noted that Hendricks will be given extra rest before his next start and won’t start again on this trip. His next start will be next Monday at Wrigley Field against the Pirates.

Here are Kyle’s postgame comments:

A couple other notes about this game:

  • Willson Contreras seems to like the DH role.

Contreras as a catcher this year: .224/.342/.358 (15-for-67), 1 HR
Contreras as a DH this year: .474/.524/.895 (9-for-19), 2 HR

Granted, these are very, very small sample sizes, but it would seem to me, especially with a quality backup like Yan Gomes on the team, that Contreras could be used more as a designated hitter. He’s also 6-for-11 in the leadoff spot with a home run and only one strikeout.

  • In the third inning, Azocar singled and I think everyone in the ballpark knew he was going to try to steal second. Hendricks threw over several times and then Gomes threw him out anyway. Gomes has thrown out two of seven runners trying to steal against him so far this year. That was the only time in the game a Padres runner got anywhere near second base.
  • Hendricks lowered his road ERA from 13.50 to 6.48 (still not great, but heading in the right direction) with this win and his overall ERA dropped by more than a run, from 5.64 to 4.38.
  • This was the first 2022 Cubs win wearing the blue alternate jerseys, after four losses.

And so, my friends, the complaint department is closed and locked up tight this morning. Is this team going to play like this every day? Probably not, but I continue to believe they are capable of more games like this, and the Padres are certainly a very good team and this was a satisfying win.

Wade Miley will make his long-awaited Cubs debut Tuesday night in the second game of this series. He’ll face Mike Clevinger. Game time is again 8:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Padres market territories).