Matt Marton - USA Today Sports
Matt Marton - USA Today Sports

Hendricks continues to struggle as Braves shutout Cubs


by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - There was a time when the Chicago Cubs (25-41) had one of the oldest rotations in baseball. After injuries to Wade Miley, Drew Smyly, and Marcus Stroman took place within the last month, and the Cubs have had to adjust on the fly as an influx of youth has taken over the rotation.

Despite the changes throughout, one thing has been constant: seeing Kyle Hendricks in the rotation. However, this is not the Hendricks of old that you could count on to give you consistently good outings. This version of Hendricks has fans infuriated by his performance as he sits at 2-6 with a 5.43 ERA.

Those season-long struggles continued against the Atlanta Braves (38-29) at Wrigley Field on Sunday as Hendricks allowed six earned runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. From a command side, he had one walk and six strikeouts, but apart from that, it was another rough outing for the struggling right-hander.

Three of those six runs came in the first inning, which was enough for Ian Anderson to carve up the Cubs and earn the win. Not only did the right-hander allow just three hits, but he walked two and struck out six in 6 2/3 innings as the Cubs quest to sweep the defending champions ended.

Although the Braves only scored in two innings, both were massive innings as the Cubs fell behind early and couldn't come back. There was a stat they showed yesterday where the Cubs lead the MLB in first-inning runs scored. On the flip side, Hendricks has an ERA north of 7.00 in the first inning, as that tends to be his worst.

Something had to give; unfortunately, the Cubs scoring in the first didn't hold true. With Dansby Swanson singling with one out in the first, Matt Olson extended the inning by taking a two-out base on balls. One pitch later saw the Braves grab the 3-0 lead as Travis D'Arnaud took Hendricks deep, which was all the offense the Braves would need.

Things continued to be rough for Hendricks as he had to work around a third-inning jam to keep things close while the Cubs offense remained quiet against Anderson. Through four innings, the Cubs had two hits and could not make Anderson pay for mistakes. Give him credit, he didn't make too many mistakes, but the Cubs did fail to do damage on the ones he did.

Still trailing 3-0 in the fifth, Hendricks was hoping to finish his outing on a positive note, only to run into significant trouble again. Michael Harris continued to use the home run ball, putting the Braves up 4-0. The long ball has been an issue for Hendricks, and despite doing a better job keeping it in the yard this season, he continues to get hit hard.

Not only did Swansby pick up a double to put himself in scoring position, but he came home on an Austin Riley double as the lead grew to 5-0. Olson kept the party rolling, using his 26th double to extend the lead to 6-0, as that was the end of the road for Hendricks.

Going back to last season, the Braves are the one team to consistently hit Hendricks hard as they appear to have his number. With Hendricks unable to get through the fifth, it would be up to Adrian Sampson to give them some innings to preserve the bullpen.

Not only did he do that by tossing the final 4 2/3 innings, but Sampson was impressive, allowing just one hit and striking out five. Considering what he showed the Cubs last season in both a relief and bullpen role, these outings shouldn't surprise anyone.

The Cubs best scoring chance to this point came in the sixth inning, with Jason Heyward leading things off with a walk followed by an Alfonso Rivas single to put two runners on with no outs. Three batters later, the inning was over as the Cubs remained empty.

After stranding two more runners in the eighth, the Cubs saw the first two hitters retired in the eighth before making some more noise. Singles by Willson Contreras and Jonathan Villar helped that out, while a walk sandwiched between by Ian Happ had the bases loaded.

Once again, the Cubs came away empty-handed as A.J. Minter induced an inning ending fly out by Patrick Wisdom as the Cubs left eight men on base throughout the game. The Cubs had six hits in the loss, with Happ leading the way with two and Contreras, Villar, Rivas, and Yan Gomes having one.

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