What. A. Relief.
After another scoreless, listless game against the Indians last night, the Cubs brought us back to life tonight. Kyle Hendricks threw six shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts (his 8th straight quality start) and the Cubs bats exploded for four runs in the sixth inning — going, in order: double (Sergio Alcantara), single (Rafael Ortega), double (Joc Pederson), walk (Kris Bryant), double (Javy Baez), and finally a single (Willson Contreras) before the inning was over. It was a thing of beauty. They should really try it again some time.
But things didn’t start off NEARLY so rosy. In fact, it was about as bad as ever for the entire first half of the game. Indians righty Eli Morgan, who had been terrible in his first two starts before tonight, was perfect through three innings and had allowed only a solo homer to Kris Bryant with 9(!) strikeouts through 5.o innings.
And while we’re being honest, while Hendricks got excellent results overall, he was allowing a ton of hard contact in the air all night. I’m going to dig into that tomorrow. It’s certainly possible there was some strategy there (he did throw a ridiculous 71 strikes on 93 pitches), but, well, yeah he was getting hit hard.
Fortunately, David Ross was presented with an ideal opportunity to get him out of the game: Hendricks’ spot was due up after Alcantara hit that leadoff double in the 6th, plus the Cubs had the lead with Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, and Craig Kimbrel ready to go. And the Cubs blew it open.
… And then the Cubs continued to blow it open with back-to-back shots from Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom in the bottom of the 8th, so Dan Winkler took the 9th instead of Craig Kimbrel.