CINCINNATI — If anyone still wondered whether Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks had turned his usual April showers into his typical May powers, consider his 3-1 victory against the Reds on Tuesday night.
On the way to the Cubs’ 23rd victory in 30 games, in the opener of a six-game road trip, Hendricks:
• Delivered as many hits (three) as he allowed in eight-plus innings.
• Outscored the Reds by himself, considering his first hit was a two-out, two-run double over the shallow-playing center fielder in the second inning.
• Improved to 2-0 with an ERA of 0.36 in three starts this month after a rough April.
“He was just doing it all today; it’s super- impressive,” said Kris Bryant, who doubled and scored the Cubs’ third run in the fifth. “I don’t know if he’s going to keep up the hitting, but the pitching, I just hope he does that.”
Hendricks (3-4), who retired the first 10 batters he faced, lowered his career ERA in May to 2.51 but said this roll is more about a mindset — and improved command — that began five starts ago.
“That was impressive,” said manager Joe Maddon, who pulled Hendricks after his lone walk leading off the ninth. “His exit velocities were well above average for any starting pitcher in the last 10 years.
“His command was outstanding. He kept getting better.”
Anthony ‘‘Pipp’’ Rizzo? Probably not. But the Gold Glove first baseman at least can rest his achy back while resting assured he has a capable replacement in pal Bryant, who had his second three-hit performance in as many games and has fielded well filling in for Rizzo.
Rizzo said his back felt better the last two days and hoped to be back in the lineup Wednesday or Thursday.
“I think he’s going to have to go pitch,” Bryant said with a smile just before Rizzo walked past and a nearby wise guy dropped a “Wally Pipp.”
“I’ve already been messing with him,” Bryant said, “that his WAR is going down because I’m a better replacement player.
“I’m just doing what I can over there.’’
Rizzo’s back first tightened during the middle of Saturday’s 15-inning game on a cold, wet, muddy day.
“That’s a recipe for disaster for me, and I know that,” Rizzo said of the conditions and his balky lower back, which tends to sideline him for a few days each season.
“I try to stay engaged, and I was stretching. But there’s nothing I can do more than what I’ve already been doing.
“I’m really hoping it feels a lot better [Wednesday].”
This and that
Closer Brandon Morrow (elbow), who was shut down last month after a setback, is to be evaluated in the next few days with an eye toward restarting a throwing program.
The club is hoping for a return in July.
— Third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who has battled vertigo much of the season, remained in Chicago and underwent more tests after missing the weekend series against the Brewers.
“He’s fine,” Maddon said.
“We’re just waiting for him to feel better.”
— Injury-plagued Adbert Alzolay (lat), last year’s top pitching prospect in the organization, makes his first start of the season Friday with Class AAA Iowa.
— Catcher Victor Caratini (hand) might be back from the injured list before the Cubs open their next series Friday in Washington.
“He’s on the verge,” Maddon said.