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Hendricks: Cy Young talk ‘humbling’ but not focus of final weeks

Kyle Hendricks hanging with teammate Jorge Soler after scoring a run in Friday's game.

DENVER – After one of his more impressive starts of the season Friday night, Cubs fifth starter/ace Kyle Hendricks has maybe eight starts left before the playoffs.

As far as he’s concerned, those are the starts that matter most when it comes to all this heady talk of Cy Young contention and ERA titles.

“Just thinking back to last year, this time of year, I never thought I’d be at this point,” said Hendricks, who on Saturday night took over the major-league lead in ERA when injured Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw fell off the leader board for lack of qualifying innings.

Hendricks’ 2.16 ERA is just ahead of Giants ace Madison Bumgarner’s 2.25 for the MLB lead and the biggest reason his name has become increasingly prominent in Cy Young conversation with just six weeks left.

“It’s humbling definitely,” said Hendricks, who allowed just one run in six innings at Coors Field Friday night before the bullpen blew a 5-1 lead in what turned into a 6-5 loss in 11 innings.

“There’s so many great pitchers in this league, so just to be among some of those names,” he said, stopping in midsentence to refocus. “To stay in that talk, there’s a lot I still need to do, a lot of season left. I’ve just got to stay grounded and make good pitches.”

Hendricks (11-7), like Bumgarner (12-7), has been a victim of run support and bullpen issues that have impacted his win-loss record. But he’s tied for second in the league in WHIP (1.00), is second in OPS-against (.587) and leads the Cubs with two complete games (tied for fourth in the league).

And this: He’s allowed three or fewer earned runs in his last 16 starts – producing a 9-4 record and 1.67 ERA in that span.

In fact, the only other Cubs pitcher in the last 20 years to have such a streak of that length was the only other Cub in the last 20 years to win a Cy Young: Jake Arrieta last year.

But Hendricks, who makes his living on 90-mph precision and an exceptional changeup, is willing to take only a moment to consider how far he’s come since his ERA was nearly two points higher this time last year as he struggled with his mechanics.

ERA lead?

“Those are results, and in this game when you get focused on results, things can change in a hurry,” he said. “In order to keep having success, you’ve just got to stay grounded, stay consistent – simple thoughts. Trust the process.”