Joe Maddon saw Kyle Hendricks smirk just a little bit wider at the end of Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Phillies.
The rare display of emotion, Maddon said, qualified as “effusive, ebullient and effervescent” for the 26-year-old pitcher.
Hendricks had reason to smile after throwing his first complete game of the season and first at Wrigley Field. The 41,555 on hand cheered wildly as Hendricks walked out to pitch the ninth inning, and his warm up music – Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” – blared over the PA.
“That was probably the coolest part, just standing there for the ninth,” said Hendricks, allowing himself another smile. “But again, I had to just tell myself that much more to keep it simple, stay within myself and make pitches.”
As far as fifth starters go, the Cubs could sure do a lot worse than Hendricks, who lowered his ERA to 2.93 with the win. He’d have had a shutout in fewer than 100 pitches, too, if not for a defensive miscue in the outfield during the ninth inning.
Cubs starters now own a 2.52 ERA in more than 300 innings this season. Batters are hitting just .206 against them.
“When you’ve got your No. 5 and you know he’s going to give you a quality start, that means you’re in pretty good shape,” catcher Miguel Montero said.
“It was fun to catch him today,” he added. “He had total command of his pitches. His curveball was really good. Now his confidence is back because he knows he can use the curveball as well.”
Hendricks cruised from the start, facing the minimum nine batters through the first three innings without a ball leaving the infield.
The Phillies scored their lone run in the ninth after Freddy Galvis popped a ball between Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist in shallow right field. The two miscommunicated who would make the play, and Heyward lost the ball in the sun before realizing the problem.
Galvis made it all the way to second on the play, then he scored after a dropped-third strike on Ryan Howard.
“Jason was trying to yell for Zobrist to go get it,” Maddon said of the mistake, “and I think Zobrist thought he was saying, ‘I got it.’ You could actually see the sun reflecting in his sunglasses. It was an impossible moment.”
The fielders appeared to laugh off the miscue, and the game was in hand three batters later.
Hendricks threw the Cubs’ second complete game of the season – the first being Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter on April 21. He struck out seven, walked none and allowed five hits. He also picked up his second base hit of the season.
Hendricks is perhaps an overlooked piece of the Cubs’ standout rotation, but Maddon doesn’t believe that will be the case for long.
“What you’re seeing right now is not a reach to me,” Maddon said. “This is what he can look like consistently.”
Dexter Fowler began off the game for the Cubs with his 16th career leadoff home run to give Hendricks an early cushion. Heyward and Zobrist doubled to add another run in the first.
The Cubs improved to 33-14 with the win, marking their best record through 47 games since 1918.