When the dust settled at Wrigley Field and the NLCS had officially ended, Jon Lester and Javy Baez were announced as the Cubs’ co-MVPs for the Championship Series.
Obviously, amid a number of deserving candidates, those two stuck out the most.
But I will submit, for the record and your consideration, the man that carried the Cubs up through the goal posts for the very first time in over 70 years: Kyle Hendricks.
After getting hit with a line drive in his first playoff start and losing to Clayton Kershaw at home in his return to the mound, despite a solid effort, Kyle Hendricks gave the Dodgers everything he had in his Saturday night rematch. It was impressive, to say the very least.
Indeed, everyone thought a studly starter would dominate in that game … and one did; his name just happened to be Kyle.
So let’s take a look back one of the most important games in the history of the Chicago Cubs franchise, and see what the pitcher did to propel the Cubs into history.
First, the box score.
Kyle Hendricks left after recording an out and allowing a single in the top of the eighth inning, but pitched a masterful 7.1 innings before that. All in all, he allowed no runs on just two hits and no walks against six strikeouts. It took Hendricks, who never allowed a runner to reach second base, just 88 pitches to get that far. Re-live some of the highlights from Game 6 below:
Hendricks’ game score of 86 was the highest by any Cubs starting pitcher or opponent throughout the 2016 postseason. It was better than Lester (83) and Johnny Cueto (83) in Game 1 of the NLDS, better than Matt Moore (78) in Game 4 of the NLDS, better than Clayton Kershaw (82) in Game 2 of the NLCS, it was better than everyone. In fact, Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter against the Reds earlier this season (89) was the only higher game score by a Cubs starter in 2016.
And if you’re still having trouble comprehending just how good Hendricks was that night, take a look at the the standing ovation he received from the Wrigley Field crowd as he walked back to the dugout after exiting in the eighth. That says it all.
Although Hendricks was framed as (to borrow a line from Patrick Mooney) “the other pitcher” before the game started on Saturday, he was met with no shortage of attention and adoration after the fact. Jason McLeod, for example, suggested that it was one of the best pitching performances he had ever seen, Jed Hoyer praised Hendricks for not providing the Dodgers with even a sliver of hope, and Ben Zobrist said, “He’s just so good, so mature for his age … He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”
Heavy praise, indeed.
You can read more about Hendricks’ outing from his teammates, bosses, father, and a number of other people all over (CSN Chicago, ESPN Chicago, Cubs.com), but of the most prescient lines, I believe, came from Jake Arrieta. The 2015 NL Cy Young winner commented that Hendricks is “as well-prepared and well-poised as anybody in the game,” and when those two qualities go together with some talent, you can dominate any team in baseball.
We’ve always known that Hendricks is a big-time preparation guy, but the poise he holds on the mound (in just his second full MLB season, by the way) is quite the revelation. Sure, he’s never been the emotional type out there, but there’s a lot more to it than that, especially considering the intensity of an NLCS Game 6 at Wrigley Field against Clayton freakin Kershaw. There just aren’t many bigger moments in baseball, and he couldn’t have let it affect him any less. Whatever happens in the World Series, the Cubs owe Hendricks a massive credit.
“It’s been an unbelievable year,” Hendricks said after the win, per ESPN. “But we’re not done.”
Hendricks isn’t done either.
Make sure you like BN on Facebook so that you can get more, you know, BN on Facebook – just click that button there: