Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks hasn’t been able to get away with many mistakes recently.
Even as a guy who pitches to contact, teams had made him pay for leaving pitches over the plate in his last two starts, a trend he knew he had to correct.
‘‘It’s one of two things right now,’’ Hendricks said after his last start. ‘‘I’m either a little too predictable, so when I do make a good pitch, they’re kind of on it. That was probably the case there. Or I’m just not getting away with the bad pitches that I make. I’m making too many bad pitches.’’
Hendricks seemed to make the right adjustments in the Cubs’ 8-2 victory Wednesday against the Pirates.
It had been hard contact that had gotten Hendricks into trouble, and he had allowed a combined 17 hits — including three home runs — in his last two starts.
During the first and second innings against the Pirates, Hendricks was getting some pitches up in the zone and made a mistake, allowing a solo homer to Colin Moran in the second. After that, he settled in.
‘‘The first thing I told him was that I thought he was rushing a little bit too much,’’ catcher Willson Contreras said. ‘‘I know he was trying to get in rhythm early in the game. But instead of getting in rhythm, he was rushing.’’
It was clear Hendricks was trying to get back to basics and let his sinker lead the way, something that has made him so successful in his career.
After finding his rhythm, Hendricks started to get his sinker down in the zone and mixed in his curveball to keep the Pirates off-balance.
His changeup was something he used sparingly, throwing a season-low 18 in the game. But when he went to his offspeed stuff, it was successful. He often went to the changeup in two-strike counts and picked up four of his six strikeouts on the pitch.
‘‘It was in the game plan to throw more curveballs and heaters against this team,’’ said Hendricks, who yielded one run and six hits in six innings. ‘‘Changeup just isn’t feeling good last outing and this outing. That’s just something I have to focus on in my bullpen. In-game, we just made the adjustment to go to more heaters and curveballs.’’
The offense, meanwhile, gave him enough support. For the second consecutive game, the Cubs’ new-look lineup scored eight runs and got a lift from the top of the order.
After a single by Contreras and a double by Anthony Rizzo in the fourth, Javy Baez ambushed Pirates reliever Nick Tropeano with a towering three-run homer into the left-field seats to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. They would send nine men to the plate in the inning.
The Cubs broke the game open late, adding two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. Ian Happ, Contreras, Rizzo and Baez combined to go 8-for-20 with three doubles, a homer and six RBI in support of Hendricks, who evened his record at 4-4 with his first quality start since Aug. 17.
“That’s to me why he’s so good, even when he’s not as sharp as he can be, he finds a way to get outs,” manager David Ross said. “He finds a way to throw strikes. He doesn’t walk guys. He’s not going to put himself in a lot of trouble. Very, very good outing for him. Especially with not being on his game.”