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.
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].”