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Hendricks, Rizzo beat Mets as Cubs finish winning homestand

Cubs second baseman Javy Baez makes the play of the game Wednesday with a catch of a Juan Lagares foul ball for the first out of the seventh. “Good thing he didn’t collapse and go forward because his head was going right into that brick wall,” Anthony Rizzo said. “And that wall would have won. Great play.”

By the time the news broke Wednesday afternoon that help was on the way, the Cubs already had done it themselves.

A team that stumbled for three weeks into the All-Star break — getting demoralized by the playoff-nemesis Mets for four games along the way – was back on its feet and looking October-bound by the time they finished off their first homestand of the second half Wednesday.

Kyle Hendricks, who has looked a lot more like a frontline starter than a fifth man, pitched into the seventh to beat the Mets 6-2 Wednesday as the Cubs won back-to-back series against contenders before learning after the game that the Cubs had traded for Seattle left-hander Mike Montgomery.

Hendrcks lowered his ERA to 2.27, third in the majors.

Beating the Mets in a series for the first time in more than a year – after losing eight straight games to them, including the playoffs – was at least symbolic, if not significant in the clubhouse, for a team that might be faced with the Mets in the postseason again.

“I’m just glad we played well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve played six really good games since the break. That’s the part that has really stood out to me.”

The Cubs’ only two losses during the homestand were Sunday, against Texas Rangers’ ace Cole Hamels, and Tuesday against Mets ace Noah Syndergaard.

“We just want to keep winning series,” said Rizzo, who launched two more home runs – and possibly an MVP campaign – as he drove in half the Cubs’ runs, tying Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the National League RBI lead (71) along the way.

As good as Rizzo has looked, the resurgence of the Cubs’ starting pitching was the most significant part of the homestand. A rotation that had a 6.04 ERA during a 6-15 slide into the break, went 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA in the six games, averaging almost 7 innings per start.

Hendricks (9-6), who was the only starter with a win in the last 12 games leading into the break, has quietly been the staff’s steadiest pitcher all year.

“I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job ever since I’ve been up here,” said Hendricks, who earned a rotation spot for last year’s playoff team after he made an impressive 13-start debut in 2014. “I’m really just focused on what I can control and lately that’s been simplifying everything. I feel good in my mechanics. I feel good with the rapport I’ve had with Willson [Contreras] and [Miguel Montero] behind the plate.”

Hendricks, who struck out the side in two of his first three innings Wednesday, hasn’t allowed an earned run since June – taking a streak of 22 1/3 innings without an earned run into his next start.

“It’s kind of just picking up where I’ve left off after every start,” he said. “This week I’ll have to get my fastball command a little bit, but overall it’s been good.”