What You Need To Know: Most probably viewed these three games with their fingernails already bitten down to the quick, and as just yet another monument to the torture of being a Cubs fan. I see it as an opportunity to clinch the division and knock the Cardinals out of the playoffs simultaneously FOR THE SECOND SEASON IN A ROW!
The Cubs got started on the latter, as Kyle Hendricks was unhittable for five innings, danced his way out of trouble for three more, and the offense kept yanking the dollar bill on a string out away from the Cardinals to assure they were never really that close.
And the Magic Number is now two, with win number 94 in the books.
Next Level: Hendricks closes September with 32.1 innings pitched in five starts, giving up 24 hits, six earned runs, with 28 Ks and just four walks. His last three starts have been 24.1 innings, four runs, 15 Ks against three walks.
You can write the rest from here. Hendricks weaved together a quilt of fastballs and changeups that were essentially a mystery to the Cards. Hendricks got 13 groundouts. The amount of soft contact was higher than that. The first five innings saw Hendricks only give up three hits and a walk. From then on it was about staying on the beam. The Cards got two in the sixth but Hendricks limited it to that. The seventh saw The Cerebral Assassin stranded runners on second and third by striking out Matt Adams so easily you would have thought someone told Adams dinner was on. He then got Matt Carpenter to harmlessly fly out. He stranded two more runners in the eighth by getting Yadier Molina to fly out.
It’s kind of nice that when the playoffs start next week, Joe Maddon has three options to start Game 1.
It was a strange day for the lineup. In the first inning they were determined to wait out Adam Wainwright. They made him throw 30 pitches, were waiting back on his curve and take it the other way. That’s how the first three reached, either by opposite field single or walk. Heyward got one in on an error.
Then for the next three innings they were hacking at that curve like the world was going to end tomorrow (and given the state of our society after the past couple days, let’s root for that).
The good news is that Kris Bryant massacred one of those curves in the 4th that pegged the restaurant. The top of the lineup gathered a run in the fifth of Wainwright. And then it it was about picking the carcass of the Cards ‘pen, which they did for four more runs. Easy enough.
So the Cubs need two wins, or just one if the Brewers find a way to drop just one game against the Tigers. If the Dodgers win tonight, the best the Cards can hope for is a one-game playoff to get into the one-game playoff. The Cubs hold everything in their hands.
Guys, it’s been way worse. Remember that.
Top WPA Play: Anthony Rizzo’s single in the 1st that set the Cubs on their way scoring Murphy and giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead (+.113).
Bottom WPA Play: Marcell Ozuna’s single in the 6th that got the Cards to 4-1 (-.069).
Lead photo courtesy @Cubs on Twitter