Kyle Hendricks hit his spots and kept hitters off balance. It was a command performance at a big moment for the Chicago Cubs.
Hendricks went eight innings, and the NL Central-leading Cubs beat the second-place St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 on Monday.
Led by Hendricks and a 10-hit attack, Chicago closed out the five-game series on a winning note after losing three straight. It leads the defending division champions by 2 1/2 games.
Hendricks (5-4) gave up a run and seven hits in his second straight win. He also struck out four and walked none in his 38th consecutive start with two walks or less — the most by a Cubs pitcher since at least 1901.
“I didn't know that to be honest with you,” Hendricks said. “It's something I'm shooting for, I guess. It's a good result to have, to know that what I'm going out there and trying to do is coming across. I've just got to keep focused on that, keep moving forward and not giving them free bases."
Hendricks' poise and control have made him one of the Cubs' most reliable pitchers since he debuted in 2014.
“He’s a guy that you just can mark it up to consistency every fifth day,” manager David Ross said. “That’s such a powerful thing in major league baseball, to have a guy that you know is gonna take the bump, give you a solid outing, not gonna beat himself, is gonna keep you in the ballgame. Very poised in any situation. I don’t know where this group would be (without him).”
Javier Báez had three singles and scored a run, helping the Cubs earn a split of the 10-game season series against the Cardinals. Jason Kipnis had two hits and drove in a run. Willson Contreras made it 5-0 with a two-run single against Johan Oviedo in the fifth.
Oviedo (0-2) went 4 2/3 innings in his fourth major league start, allowing three earned runs and eight hits.
“This kid’s going to be a really good pitcher for us," manager Mike Shildt said. "Oviedo’s got not only a bright long-term future, but this guy’s going to help us this year. He’s got the pitches. He’s got the makeup. He’s got the competitive spirit.”
Catcher Yadier Molina exited in the sixth with a bruised left elbow. Matt Wieters replaced the nine-time All-Star and drove in St. Louis’ lone run with a seventh-inning single. But the Cardinals came up short after matching a season high with three straight wins.
“We’re battling,” Oviedo said. “As a team, we feel great right now.”