NEW YORK — If there was one thing the Cubs needed besides a victory going into their series finale against the Mets, it was a lengthy outing by their starting pitcher. During the first three games at Citi Field, the Cubs didn’t get much length from their starters with outings of 4 1/3, five and four innings.
A team needs its best starter to step up, and over the last eight weeks, right-hander Kyle Hendricks has done that.
Hendricks gave the Cubs a quality outing Thursday and halted their three-game losing streak in a 2-0 victory against New York.
“I think Kyle is the story of the day,” manager David Ross said. “He’s the backbone of our rotation. It’s starting to be that win day when he pitches.”
After Javy Baez’s two-run shot in the first inning gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead, Hendricks went to work on the Mets’ lineup.
He allowed a leadoff double to start the game but quickly found his rhythm on the way to his seventh consecutive victory. The Mets did little damage against Hendricks, who allowed only two hits in six scoreless innings despite not feeling his best.
“The timing was just a little bit off, but mentally I felt great today,” Hendricks said. “Mentally, I was locked in pitch-to-pitch and focused on just making a good pitch. Even though I was struggling those first couple of innings, I didn’t make any bad pitches or leave any over the middle of the plate.”
The turning point in Hendricks’ night came in the fourth inning as he got into his only real jam. He walked Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith to lead off the inning, which led to a visit from pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.
The meeting on the mound clearly got Hendricks back where he needed to be as he got the next batter, James McCann, to ground into a routine 6-4-3 double play before getting a soft groundout to end the inning.
“He just came out for a little bit of a reset,” Hendricks said. “Make sure we get back on the same page and keep the same mentality. Just execute the pitch. We knew what we wanted to do to McCann, and luckily he pulled that first [pitch] foul, but after that, we really executed some good pitches, and it was a great turn up the middle by those guys.”
Hendricks would retire the last eight batters he faced after the walk to Smith. He struck out seven to earn his ninth victory.
He is getting closer to being the ace the Cubs remember, and with each start in the last two months, he has taken another step toward that goal. Hendricks has gone at least six innings in nine of his last 11 starts dating to April 23 and is 7-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his last seven outings, clearly putting his horrendous April in the rearview.
“You got a really good chance when he goes out there,” Ross said. “Probably not the sharpest you’ve seen him and he doesn’t even give up any runs. Gutsy performance by Kyle there that we needed.”
“When you don’t trust it physically, when you don’t trust your stuff, it’s hard going out there mentally to commit to a pitch every time,” Hendricks said. “So mentally, it’s gotten way better, too. I go out there, I commit to the pitch. I know what to expect out of it, so I’m able to execute.”