You Weren’t Dreaming, That Really Was One of the Best Starts of Kyle Hendricks’ Entire Career

I had about as much fun watching the Cubs last night as I have all season. And the no. 1 reason was Kyle Hendricks’ complete and utter domination of a very potent Padres lineup. In case you it (it was a late one, so you’re excused this one time), The Professor came just one out short of a complete game shutout in San Diego: 8.2 IP, 3H, 0ER, 1BB, 7Ks.

By Game Score (89), that was Hendricks best start since September of 2020 and it was tied for the third best start of his ENTIRE CAREER.

For any lingering complaints about pulling Hendricks with two outs in the 9th, Hendricks said he already talked Ross into letting him back out there for the ninth and started feeling fatigued around that 9th inning walk. He knew it was time to get out of there, and let’s be honest: Ross gave him 116 pitches. That NEVER happens anymore. He got a shot to close it out, but came up just short. It was the right call. And it takes absolutely NOTHING away from his performance.

Before last night: 5.64 ERA
After last night: 4.38 ERA

But I’m not just thrilled about his performance in a vacuum, or even that he ended the Cubs five-game losing streak. Instead, I’m focused on how Hendricks looked and felt throughout the game and how different it was than anything else he’s done this season. Aside from a strong performance against the Pirates (who don’t exactly have a formidable lineup), Hendricks hasn’t looked that good in a while.

So what was working for him last night? Well in his words, it was all about the fastball: “Kinda building off last start, I made a lot of good pitches, especially with my fastball command. That’s where it all started today. Fastball command felt really good. I established my heater down in the zone. There were a couple hard-hit balls, but they were on [pitches] that were down, not up over the middle of the plate where I’ve been getting hurt. Changeup played off it, went in when we needed to.”

Quickly, to that last point:

Before the season, Hendricks was zeroed in on his fastball command down in the zone, identifying that lack of command down as his kryptonite last season. But last night (by the eye test and a quick peak at the data), it’s clear Hendricks was able to get that fastball down, which, again, sets up all his other pitches for outs. But even setting that aside, I was equally impressed by some of his elevated heaters and overall velocity. Up until the end of the ninth inning, Hendricks was still hurling it at 88 MPH up in the zone (which is pretty much as good as he gets when he’s fresh).

That’s what I was talking about when I said he looked (and presumably felt) as good as he has all year.

According to Statcast, Hendricks got 16 called strikes and 4 whiffs on his fastballs, which is just excellent and a huge reason his changeup netted an impressive 10 whiffs on just 25 offerings (40%).

But it’s not like Hendricks abandoned the contact game, either. There were just three balls hit over 100 MPH, but one was a groundout, another was a double play, and the third was a single. And all told, Hendriks netted nine groundouts and four pop outs on the evening, which is just always going to play. Moreover, not a single ball was barreled and his 83.4 MPH average exit velocity was his best mark all season.

I’d like to say that was the vintage Kyle Hendricks experience, but as we’ve discussed, it was actually about as good as he’s ever been. And to do that on the road against a good team with great velocity DEEP into the ballgame? Well, it’s just hard to come away unimpressed. The hope now is that he can carry this success forward and return to the consistent, top-end starting pitcher he’s been for most of his career.

 

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

more cubs news

Enhanced Box Score: Pirates 9, Cubs 3 – May 17, 2024

For six hitless, profoundly dominant innings, Paul Skenes today looked like the best pitching prospect I've seen since maybe Stephen Strasburg. The other two who came to mind as I watched were Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez. Those three, when...

MLBits: Elly De La Cruz Continues to Electrify, Yanks Want Soto for Long Haul, More

Elly De La Cruz continues to dazzle and the Yankees want Juan Soto in New York for the rest of his career. That and more in today's MLB Notes! Elly De La Cruz's Four Steal Night Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly...

Cubs Farm Report | May 17, 2024: I-Cubs’ Homer Party Helps Cade Horton Get His First Triple-A Win

The Iowa Cubs mashed four home runs and scored 10 runs, as Cade Horton made his best start at Triple-A on Thursday. That and more in today's Cubs Farm Report. Cubs Farm Report | May 17, 2024 Triple-A Iowa Cubs...

Cubs Roster Moves: Brewer to the IL, Hodge to Chicago

YES! ANOTHER CUBS PLAYER IS HITTING THE INJURED LIST! ANOTHER CUBS RELIEVER AT THAT! PLEASE DO NOT MISTAKE MY SHOUTING FOR EXCITEMENT! IT IS ACTUALLY JUST INCREDULITY AND CAFFEINE! Today the Chicago Cubs placed reliever Colten Brewer on the 15-day...

Chicago Cubs Lineup: Seiya Sits, But PCA is Back

CUBS LINEUP — The Cubs dropped the opener last night at Wrigley Field, but they've got a Friday 1:20 start with Kyle Hendricks on the bump (and the sun shining) today. Maybe those good vibes will be enough to take...

Hoping on Happ and Hoerner, Steele and Jones, Murray, Roku, Vegas, and Other Cubs Bullets

Here's hoping no Pirates players take a wrong turn in Wrigleyville and get detained trying to get into Wrigley Field. Maybe have to miss the game. (This is a Scottie Scheffler reference, for those who haven't seen the bonkers story...

Cade Horton’s Latest Triple-A Iowa Start Came with Some Awesomeness and Some Bad Luck

Cade Horton's latest Triple-A outing went better than the last one, though even it will come with some explanation. Officially, the line for Horton was 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K. Fine. Solid. Not overly impressive....

Enhanced Box Score: Pirates 5, Cubs 4 – May 16, 2024

The Cubs had a golden opportunity handed to them in the bottom of the eighth inning when leadoff man Seiya Suzuki was hit by a pitch and reached third on a swinging bunt (+ error) for Cody Bellinger immediately after....

The Mini-Break Pays Off: Ian Happ with a ROCKET Home Run!

After a red-hot first ten games of the season (172 wRC+), Ian Happ had gone ice cold offensively. Aside from continuing to take his walks (he always does), his overall production plummeted to the point where Craig Counsell game him...

Kevin Alcantara Doubles, Matt Shaw Singles, and Moises Ballesteros HOMERS THEM ALL IN!

Brennen Davis isn't the only hot Cubs prospect. In fact, Moises Ballesteros is basically THE hot Cubs prospect of the season so far. And tonight, after two of the Cubs top prospects — Kevin Alcantara (on a double) and Matt...

Latest News

Dallas Wings vs. Chicago Sky: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Dallas Wings (1-0) hit the court against the Chicago Sky (0-1) on Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 8:00 PM ET on NBA TV, BSSW, and MARQ.Watch the WNBA all season long on Fubo!How to Watch Wings vs. SkyGame Day:...

How to Watch Twins vs. Guardians: Live Stream or on TV

On Saturday, Bailey Ober will start for the Minnesota Twins (24-20) against Logan Allen and the Cleveland Guardians (28-17), with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM ET at Progressive Field.If you're intending to watch this game, keep reading for TV...

Giants vs. Rockies: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

Kyle Harrison will take the ball for the San Francisco Giants (20-25) when they host starter Ty Blach and the Colorado Rockies (15-28) on Saturday, with first pitch at 4:05 PM ET.Keep reading to find out all the details on...

How to Watch Dodgers vs. Reds: Live Stream or on TV

The Los Angeles Dodgers (29-17), who will give the start to Walker Buehler, host the Cincinnati Reds (19-25) with Graham Ashcraft on the hill, Saturday at 9:10 PM ET.Keep reading to find out how to watch the Los Angeles-Cincinnati matchup...

Las Vegas Aces vs. Los Angeles Sparks: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

A'ja Wilson leads the Las Vegas Aces (1-0) into a matchup with the Los Angeles Sparks (0-1) after scoring 30 points in an 89-80 win over the Mercury. The game is on Saturday, May 18, 2024, tipping at 3:00 PM...

Aces vs Sparks Prediction: Picks, Live Odds & Moneyline – May 18

A game after scoring 30 points in an 89-80 win over the Mercury, A'ja Wilson leads the Las Vegas Aces (1-0) at home against the Los Angeles Sparks (0-1) on Saturday, May 18, 2024. The matchup airs at 3:00 PM...

How to Watch Diamondbacks vs. Tigers: Live Stream or on TV

On Saturday, Zac Gallen will start for the Arizona Diamondbacks (21-23) against Jack Flaherty and the Detroit Tigers (21-22), with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 PM ET at Chase Field.The article below will provide you with everything you need to...

Astros vs. Brewers: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

On Saturday at 7:10 PM ET, Kyle Tucker and the Houston Astros (20-25) take on William Contreras and the Milwaukee Brewers (26-18) at Minute Maid Park.If you're trying to watch this game, keep reading for TV and streaming options for...

Rangers vs. Angels: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

Jose Urena takes the ball for the Texas Rangers (23-23) when they host starter Patrick Sandoval and the Los Angeles Angels (17-28) at 7:15 PM ET on Saturday.Keep reading to see how to watch the Texas-Los Angeles matchup in the...

Red Sox vs. Cardinals: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

Kutter Crawford will take the ball for the Boston Red Sox (22-23) when they visit starting pitcher Miles Mikolas and the St. Louis Cardinals (19-25) on Saturday, with first pitch at 7:15 PM ET.Keep scrolling to find out all the...

more cubs news