Hendricks dazzles as Cubs win series against Cards
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Hendricks dazzles as Cubs win series against Cards

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - It took long enough, but that is the Kyle Hendricks the Chicago Cubs (36-39) have been waiting for. After getting off to one of the worst starts of his professional career, Hendricks saw himself get removed from the rotation and was forced to pitch out of the bullpen for the past month.

While the results were mixed at times, Hendricks was on a role his past few outings as he tossed 8 2/3 consecutive scoreless frames. That included four scoreless outings against the Cardinals last Friday in relief of Jordan Wicks, who left the game in the second with an Oblique injury. That injury had more significance than anyone realized as Hendricks was put back into the rotation and made his first start in over a month against the San Francisco Giants (36-39) at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.

Not only did Hendricks step up and give the Cubs exactly what they needed, but he finally had the outing the team has been waiting for all season as the Cubs bullpen held on for the 6-5 win. Hendricks was about as good as you can be, going 5 2/3, allowing one run on two hits while striking out eight. Had he been pitching like that all season, there is no way the Cubs would be under .500 as he came up huge in this one.

“I still have a long way to go,” Hendricks said after the win. “That's just one today. I've got to keep stacking them together, whatever I'm asked to do or whenever I'm out there.”

With what was considered a bullpen game for both sides, the Cubs had the advantage as Hendricks could be streteched out much longer than Erik Miller who only lasted two innings. He managed to keep them off the board, but that was the case for both sides entering the fourth. It was in that inning when the Cubs offense began to flex their muscles as Ian Happ and Dansby Swanson connected for back to back homers to put the Cubs in front 2-0.

Swanson had a massive final two games of this series, and that has to feel good for a guy who was slumping mightily. Those homers were followed by a Michael Busch walk and a Miguel Amaya single, only to have Pete Crow-Armstrong drop down a bunt and reach first via an error. Busch came across to score on that error as the Cubs were in front 3-0.

It took six innings for the Giants to scratch across their first run, and it came in the final inning of work for Hendricks as you started to see the fatigue setting in. Thairo Estrada started things off with a leadoff double before advancing to third on a Brett Wisely single. Estrada would end up scoring on the play off the Heilot Ramos grounder as the Giants pulled within 3-1.

That was all for Hendricks who let with a standing ovation only to hand the ball over to another former starter in Drew Smyly. Say what you want about Smyly, anytime you have a player who can give you mulitple innings out of the pen, you have to consider yourself fortunate and Smyly can be that guy for the Cubs as he finished off the sixth before coming back out to toss a scoreless seventh to keep the Cubs in front 3-1.

Despite the lead, no lead is safe with this Cubs bullpen, which continued to be the mindset of this offense in the seventh. With Nico Hoerner starting the inning off with a double, the Cubs offense was in business only to have a Cody Bellinger single and Christopher Morel load the bases with one out. Two batters later saw Swanson come through with arguably his biggest hit of the season as his two-run single capped off his three-RBI day and gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead.

Morel would come home to score later in the inning off an error as his run would go down as the winning run which is hard to believe. Slated to pitch the eighth with a five run lead, Mark Leiter Jr wasn't at his best and that has been the case a lot in recent outings. Once again, the command was an issue as he walked a pair of hitters, but he also allowed a leadoff single to Wisely as the Giants had the bases loaded with two outs.

That forced the hand of Craig Counsell once again as he called on the team's best reliever of late Ty,son Miller, to finish the job. Since coming over in a trade from Seattle, Miller has allowed just one earned run in 15 innings, but that all changed with one swing from Jorge Soler as his grand slam pulled the Giants to within 6-5. Three of those runs were charged to Leiter whose ERA is now creeping up close to five while the other run went to Miller.

With Hector Neris out of the equation for a second straight day, the Cubs were looking to finish things off as Colten Brewer was the next pitcher to be given a shot at the ninth inning. As the fans have seen far too often this season, nothing comes easy for this team and with two walks to put the tying run at second, Brewer was pitching himself into trouble.

All that mattered in the end was finding a way to get out of trouble as Brewer followed those walks up with a pair of grounders as the Cubs picked up the 6-5 series victory.

“The great thing about Kyle is that he never stops trying to figure it out,” Counsell said after the win. “With his accomplishments and his career, it's easy to say, ‘This is the way I've done it.’ And I think Kyle's real gift is that he's just open and he's willing to make those adjustments.”

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