Kyle Hendricks improves, but Twins top Cubs behind Max Kepler’s big day

Kepler went 3-for-3 with two homers and a double against Hendricks in the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Twins.

SHARE Kyle Hendricks improves, but Twins top Cubs behind Max Kepler’s big day
Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks delivers during the first inning of Wednesday’s game against the Twins.

Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks delivers during the first inning of Wednesday’s game against the Twins.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

There’s only one thing that kept starter Kyle Hendricks from a solid performance in his final start at Wrigley Field. His name was Max Kepler.

The Twins right fielder was a pain in Hendricks’ side in the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to Minnesota, going 3-for-3 with a pair of no-doubt home runs and a double. He was responsible for four of Minnesota’s five runs.

Kepler got the Twins going early as he launched a long homer off Hendricks after getting behind in the count, giving Minnesota an early 2-0 lead.

Following the two-run shot in the first inning, the Cubs’ right-hander started to get himself into a groove. He retired the next nine batters and looked like the team’s ace. But with one out in the fourth inning, Kepler did more damage.

After working a 3-2 count, Kepler hit his second home run of the game to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. It was the 31st homer Hendricks has allowed this season, which is a career-high and fifth-most in MLB.

“He just put good swings on it tonight,” Hendricks said. “It was either I fell behind or I mis-executed. Maybe executed one pitch to him, an up-and-in fastball. Other than that, just pitches over the middle of the plate.”

Hendricks was able to pitch around the Twins’ lineup without incident before Kepler was a pest once more. He almost hit his third homer of the night in the sixth inning, but the ball hit off the top of the wall for a double.

“That was kind of the goal going in,” Hendricks said. “Really make sure we established down and away. Got back down in the zone with some angle. . . . Made a lot more good pitches. Still didn’t execute as many as I needed to, but at least I went in with the goal of getting my heater down to both sides.”

An error by Matt Duffy allowed Kepler to score from second base, giving Minnesota a 4-2 lead.

Hendricks left the game after 5‰ innings. While he didn’t complete the sixth inning, he had a better game than his final line might indicate. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits. He struck out three and didn’t allow a walk.

Chirinos leaves with oblique injury

Catcher Robinson Chirinos was removed from Wednesday’s game with a left oblique injury. During his at-bat in the seventh inning, Chirinos fouled a pitch off. But as he finished his swing, he reached for his left side, leading to a visit from manager David Ross and head athletic trainer PJ Mainville.

After a brief discussion, Chirinos came out of the game. Outfielder Nick Martini finished the at-bat and Austin Romine took over behind the plate. Chirinos has been a stabilizing force for the Cubs after the team went through a revolving door at catcher behind Willson Contreras. The team has used six backup catchers this season.

“I think the check swing before, on the second-to-last pitch before I went out there, [it] looked like he did something,” Ross said after the game. “Watched the next pitch, it looked like it grabbed again. He was poking in there. . . . Sounds like maybe some sort of oblique strain but we’ll know more [Thursday].”

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