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What’s wrong with Kyle Hendricks? Cubs’ ace searching for answers

Hendricks allowed seven earned runs in the Cubs’ 17-8 loss to the Phillies on Thursday. The right-hander has an 8.21 ERA in his last eight starts.

“I just have to be much better for this team going forward,” Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said. “We got two weeks left. It’s just working on my pitches, get the confidence back a little bit.”
“I just have to be much better for this team going forward,” Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said. “We got two weeks left. It’s just working on my pitches, get the confidence back a little bit.”
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA — The 2021 season has been quite the roller coaster for Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks. After a rough start, he went on a tear and was one of the best starting pitchers in the National League. But since the trade deadline, he has looked like a shell of himself.

It seemed that Hendricks would have an easier road to victory in the Cubs’ 17-8 loss to the Phillies on Thursday. After throwing two scoreless innings to start the game, his offense gifted him seven runs in the third for a 7-0 lead.

But things went south for Hendricks in the fourth inning.

“I just have to be much better for this team going forward,” Hendricks said. “We got two weeks left. It’s just working on my pitches, get the confidence back a little bit.”

Hendricks’ rocky inning began with a leadoff double by Bryce Harper before he drilled the next batter, J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies would then slowly begin to chip away at the lead. Andrew McCutchen’s double made it 7-2.

Things would continue to spiral for Hendricks as he allowed another hit to Brad Miller and hit Freddy Galvis with a pitch.

“Yeah, just trying to make better pitches overall,” Hendricks said. “Mechanically, I still feel good at certain points. I just get out of it, timing-wise. But really the moral of the story is too many bad pitches.”

Hendricks was reeling and wasn’t able to find his command when he needed it. Even pinch hitter Matt Joyce, who entered the at-bat hitting .096, worked a walk against him to load the bases.

“Very uncharacteristic of Kyle,” manager David Ross said.

“It’s like I was watching a different pitcher out there tonight. I didn’t see the guy that normally is aggressive with the fastball to both sides. Just looked like he kind of lost the feel.”

And it would cost him as Odubel Herrera lined a single to right field to score two runs, bringing the Phillies closer before Jean Segura’s RBI groundout made it 7-5. Ross removed Hendricks, but reliever Michael Rucker didn’t have much luck, either. Realmuto tied the game with a two-run single, closing the book on Hendricks’ night.

The Phillies sent 12 batters to the plate in their seven-run fourth inning. It was the largest blown lead since the Cubs blew a 7-0 lead against the Brewers in a 15-7 loss June 30.

Hendricks allowed seven earned runs and six hits in 3⅔ innings. He walked three and struck out one.

After a long run of success from May to July, August and September haven’t been kind to Hendricks, who has an 8.21 ERA in his last eight starts.

Pinpoint command has been Hendricks’ calling card throughout his career, but the walks have become a concern recently. He has walked 17 batters in his last eight starts.

“Walking guys, hitting a couple, you know, we’ve seen a little bit of that from time to time on the backside of his season,” Ross said. “Just that one inning where it kind of derails him a little bit. Yeah, just not his best night.”

“I feel good; I feel healthy,” Hendricks said. “I’m in a good spot, so I’m really happy about that. Just making a lot of bad pitches, leaving it over the plate. So I just have to have a little bit better focus and get back to the bottom of the zone.”