The Cubs lost to the Mets 10-1 Thursday on another chilly evening at Wrigley Field, and I’m sure you’d rather hear less about that and more about how I viewed Kyle Hendricks’ first MLB start in nearly 11 months.
Obviously the results weren’t what Kyle, or the Cubs, or you or me, would have wanted. Nevertheless, his fastball touched 88 on several occasions, setting up his changeup for five strikeouts. He did get weak contact on a number of pitches — unfortunately, instead of ground balls, those wound up as floaters into short center field for hits. His command was a bit off, especially in the first inning when he issued two walks — there weren’t any other walks, though he did hit Pete Alonso in the fifth, after which he was removed.
He didn’t allow any extra-base hits, which is good. Two of the runs off him were unearned (and I’ll get to one of those later). This tweet sums up how I felt about Kyle’s outing:
I agree with what JD is saying- we saw some good stuff from Hendricks tonight. Long way to go, but the ability is there and he had some rough luck. He looks like a pitcher that can give them a chance to win each turn.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) May 26, 2023
His next time out should be Tuesday against a very good Rays lineup. That’ll be a good test to see where he stands.
The two walks in the first led to a Mets run on a sacrifice fly. Dansby Swanson got that run right back in the bottom of the inning on his fifth home run [VIDEO].
That, unfortunately, would be it for Cubs scoring. The Mets got a couple of those floaters off Hendricks in the third and then RBI hits from Brett Baty and Starling Marte made it 4-1 Mets. They added another run in the fifth on... what on Earth were you thinking, Yan Gomes? [VIDEO].
You can’t see it on that clip, but Jeff McNeil had an enormous jump and was actually almost standing on third base when Gomes made his throw. That surprised Patrick Wisdom, who couldn’t grab the wild throw. It went into left field, allowing McNeil to score.
At the time it seemed as if the Cubs might still get back into this game. They had left the bases loaded in the third and five runners were left in the first four innings.
Then came another head-scratcher. Once Brandon Hughes got out of the fifth inning, why wasn’t Javier Assad in the game? Isn’t that the entire reason he’s on the roster, to put three or four innings in the books after a starter goes short?
Instead, Michael Rucker entered in the sixth. He did all right in that inning, helped by a nice double play started by Swanson, but then allowed a two-run homer in the seventh that pretty much put the game away. But then David Ross left Rucker in for a third inning of work, the eighth, and he was clearly out of gas, allowing four more hits and three more runs, to the point where... Assad had to bail him out.
Maybe that was “take one for the team” territory, but it seemed odd. At that point the proverbial towel was thrown in, and Tucker Barnhart pitched the ninth inning. He allowed two hits, but wasn’t scored on. Which is something, I suppose.
Back to Hendricks — there are a few comments from him after the game in this article by Meghan Montemurro in the Tribune:
Even the typically unflappable Hendricks admitted to an emotional Thursday leading up to his first big-league start in nearly 11 months. It all came down to managing everything within the buildup: his emotions, the speed of the game and execution of pitches.
“It was just so fulfilling to finally get back out there on that field,” Hendricks said. “See the fans, run out on the field with my teammates, just the little things. I took it all in. You don’t take that for granted.”
So — maybe a bit of nerves on the part of someone who never, ever shows that. It’s understandable. I would think next time will be better.
The game was Hendricks’ 223rd career start, all with the Cubs. In addition to becoming the 12th pitcher to pitch in at least 10 seasons with the Cubs, Kyle is the 14th pitcher to make at least 223 starts for the team in the Modern Era:
If all goes well for Hendricks, he could be 10th on that list by the end of this season, and hopefully have his 2024 contract option picked up by the Cubs. I want to see him end his career here, and on a high note.
Meanwhile, the Cubs did take two of three from a good Mets team, and if they can continue to meatloaf series, good things are going to happen this season. One final note: Christopher Morel went 0-for-4 and thus his 13-game hitting streak, the longest for a Cub this year, came to an end.
The Cubs open a three-game series against the Reds Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Hunter Greene will go for Cincinnati. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Reds market territories).