If you needed another illustration of the weirdness of baseball, the Cubs entered their series as far back in the NL Central as the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the NL West (3 1/2 games). Guys, it might be time for a run. Lucky for the Cubs, they’re 12-2 in their last 14 against the Giants. Well, 13-2, now.
What You Need to Know: Four—Four!—hits with runners in scoring position! A first-inning Anthony Rizzo single, a seventh-inning Ben Zobrist double, a Kris Bryant two-run single, and an eighth-inning Addison Russell single were plenty enough for a dominant Kyle Hendricks to school a scuffling Giants lineup. Other lineups struggle too, it turns out.
Hendricks continued what has mostly been par for his 2018 course—batters late on 87 mph because of circus changeups, alongside an uncharacteristically high home run rate. Even so, Hendricks looked especially sharp, allowing just two hits over seven innings. His only blemish a solo home run by Gorkys Hernandez in the fourth. That’s the Kyle Hendricks we signed up for.
Brandon Morrow: Three fastballs. 100. 100. 100. Game over.
Next Level: Save for one “Tyler C.”—no, that’s too obvious, we’ll call him T. Chatwood—the starting rotation has started to look more like history suggests they should. Over the last week, the rotation sports a 2.67 ERA (that’s including Chatwood’s grotesque 13.50, but not including Hendricks’s start today). Despite the offensive inconsistencies, the starting pitching inconsistencies will sink the ship if not corrected. The promising week-plus is a small, but encouraging, sample size, and necessary if this team is going to go anywhere.
Despite Hendricks’s increased home run totals, his ground ball rate (49.4%) remains in line with his career (49.6%), and his BABIP is a shiny .234. Maybe it’s this whole launch angle revolution creating the uptick, maybe it’s some bad luck, but it’s becoming less concerning as the starts pile up. Everything else looks like business as usual—for the Professor.
Top WPA Play: Ben Zobrist’s two-run double in the seventh broke a 1-1 tie and reminded the Cubs that they can indeed hit (+.190).
Bottom WPA Play: Gorkys Hernández’s solo home run in the fourth inning broke up Hendricks’ early no-hit bid, and ruined the shutout. Thanks, Gorkys (-.122).
Up Next: The Giants stick around for the second game of a three-game series, as José Quintana looks to keep the starting pitching train moving in the right direction.
Lead photo courtesy Matt Martin—USA Today Sports