Cubs' Kyle Hendricks Bullies Cardinals Again in 3-0 Victory

Hendricks makes himself at home in house of Cards again originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

ST. LOUIS — A few more games like this one and Kyle Hendricks might beat all odds and break into the Cubs Trade Chip Power Rankings one of these weeks.

Hell, if he’d had a few more games in this ballpark, he might be long gone by now for some next great A-ball flavor of the month.

“That was as good as I’ve seen him this year,” Cubs manager David Ross said of his three-time Opening Day starter, who has struggled much of the season — but who put on a clinic of dazzling command with his trademark fastball-changeup yo-yo act to beat the Cardinals 3-0 in the opener of a three-game weekend series at Busch Stadium.

“Vintage Kyle,” Ross said.

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In a season that still remains on pace for 100 losses, the Cubs’ fourth win in 18 games was a welcome respite for a team that just got manhandled for most of a lost four-game series against another rebuilding team’s prospects and rookies in Pittsburgh.

It was even more welcome for the Cubs’ ace — the big-game playoff starter during their, and his, recent heyday — whose season ERA is still pushing 5 after all those zeroes Friday night.

Does a game like this remind him of the old Kyle, that pitch-perfect command artist who won a 2016 ERA title and used to reel off two-month dominant streaks annually?

“Somewhat,” Hendricks (3-6) said. “But it feels so long ago. I’m really trying to focus on where I’m at right now.”

He credited catcher Yan Gomes on this night for recognizing early how aggressive the Cardinals were approaching his pitcher and started using it against them.

“Every time they thought a fastball was coming, he was throwing a changeup,” Ross said.

“I just haven’t had that great feel for what they’re trying to do against me,” Hendricks said of his struggles this season and Gomes’ guidance in this one.

Whether it leads to anything lasting for Hendricks — who is just three starts into his return from a two-week layoff for shoulder “fatigue” — he probably picked the right place at the right time to regroup.

He improved to 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 career starts at Busch Stadium (56 strikeouts, 14 walks).

In 25 career starts against the Cardinals, he’s 13-3 with a 2.69 ERA (112 Ks, 26 BBs).

“Let’s keep it going,” said Hendricks, who hasn’t lost to the Cardinals in six starts, dating back to a 3-1 loss in August 2020. “Just try to make good pitches. I’ve still got to just keep rolling with it and use what I did today and build on it.

“Just got to keep getting lucky against them, for sure.”

It was Hendricks’ first start against the Cards this year.

Along the way Friday, he tied Orval Overall for 25th in Cubs history with 86 wins, and his 225th start moved him to four starts away from tying Grover Cleveland Alexander for 16th in franchise history.

Hendricks’ only three wins this season have come after scoreless pitching performances (also seven innings against Pittsburgh in April and 8 2/3 against San Diego in May).

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