You know how every so often, some random Twitter meatball will post that Kyle Hendricks is the second coming of Greg Maddux because he gets guys out with a fastball around 90? And we feel compelled to let them know that while Hendricks is very good, rationally that comp makes no sense?
You can tell rationality to shut up.
Hendricks was Madduxing out for every single pitch of today’s gem. He painted the corners with his fastball. He tied the Phillies in knots with his change. He turned comebackers into 1-3 put-outs. He even got a couple of called third strikes with fastballs catching the inside corner.
Kyle Hendricks was doing such a good impression of Greg Maddux today that I’d be scared to use the hot tub in the Cubs clubhouse.
If a complete-game shutout with less than 100 pitches is a Maddux, then this 4-1 victory was a Caliendo.
Top Play (WPA): With a mighty wind blowing out to left field, Dexter Fowler stepped to the plate against Phillies curveball specialist Jerad Eickhoff in the top of the first. Eickhoff, attempting to find his control, missed with three straight fastballs low and away. With the count at 3-1, his next fastball finally caught the plate. Fowler hit it in the air to left field, and the wind did the rest. The ball eventually found the left-field bleachers, giving the Cubs a lead they would not relinquish (+0.103 WPA).
That’s all well and good, but I think it’s safe to say that the real top play happened in the top of the first, when Kyle Hendricks stepped onto the pitcher’s mound. (+.8675309)
Bottom Play (WPA): This is the kind of day it was. According to WPA, the Phillies’ best offensive play was Odubel Herrera’s bunt-single leading off the game (-0.036 WPA). You know you’ve had a rough offensive day when your single greatest offensive moment is setting yourself up for a pick-off. It’s like the Cardinals giving their 2013 World Series MVP to Kolten Wong.
Key Moment: Hendricks had an oddly difficult time retiring Freddy Galvis all day. In the 4th, he got ahead 0-2, only to see Galvis line a single to right. In the sixth, he again got two quick strikes, before hitting Galvis in the shin. Then in the 9th, he decided to dispense with 0-2 counts entirely and got Galvis to pop to right on the first pitch. Only, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward decided to give Andy MacPhail flashbacks to most of the Cub teams he put together and let it drop in between them.
No matter. Hendricks went through the heart of the Phillies order and got Maikel Franco to ground to second, Ryan Howard to strike out swinging, and Cameron Rupp to ground to third. And he even almost smiled.
Trend to Watch: Heyward ended up having a good day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with two doubles. His first was a bloop that fell in to short right field, and the way BABIP has worked for Heyward, I wouldn’t blame him for lingering on the first base line wondering “Aren’t you supposed to throw me out?” His second was a scorching liner to left that drove in the third Cubs run of the day.
The last time we thought Heyward had busted out of his slump (with four hits on April 24), he immediately went 1 for his next 26. But it’s getting close to the summer part of the season when he traditionally becomes the Jason Heyward we all know, so let’s hope this is a good sign.
Up Next: The Cubs go for the sweep against the Phillies tomorrow at 1:20. John Lackey (3.38 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 3.13 DRA) takes his snarl to the mound against 16-strikeout man Vince Velasquez (2.75, 3.30, 2.80). It should be the toughest challenge for the Cubs in this series, so it’s very good to have these first two games in the bank. And let’s also hope the Cubs keep Larry Himes away from Hendricks, at all costs.
Featured Image Courtesy: Dennis Wiezbicki, USA Today.