How great was right-hander Kyle Hendricks in the Cubs’ victory Friday against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field?
How dominant was Hendricks in nailing down the Cubs’ first complete game this season and their first complete-game shutout since Jose Quintana’s in 2017?
How spectacular was the stuff of a guy who did it all in 81 pitches, the fewest thrown by a Cub in a shutout since Jon Lieber’s 78-pitch gem in 2001 and the fewest in the majors in a nine-inning shutout since the Red Sox’ Aaron Cook needed 81 in 2012?
‘‘I just got a little lucky today, honestly,’’ Hendricks said.
Come on, man.
This much is true: The Cardinals were aggressive all game, swinging early in counts. They also hit several balls hard, some that went right at Cubs fielders and others that brought the best out in a defense that, when at its finest, still is a joy to watch. Third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javy Baez and outfielder Jason Heyward led the leather brigade.
‘‘There have been better games where I’ve probably given up more hits, maybe a couple of runs,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘Today I just got lucky on a few [pitches]. You have to be honest about that. It’s good self-evaluation.’’
It was only the second victory of the season for Hendricks (2-4), who was coming off a dud — seven runs, 10 hits — in his previous start. But it kept the good times rolling for a rotation that has been, on the whole, extraordinarily hot as the team has gone a major-league-best 16-6 since its 1-6 start.
Yu Darvish will start Saturday as the Cubs try to improve to 7-0-1 in their last eight series.
‘‘That is the contagious part of this game that I love when we become afflicted, and that is just good starting pitching,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘And everything else revolves around that.’’
Hendricks allowed only four singles — none by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who entered the game batting .353 with a .471 on-base percentage and a .699 slugging percentage for his career against the Cubs. Each number tops all current players in baseball against the Cubs.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ own star first baseman delivered the blow of the game. Anthony Rizzo’s three-run home run in the third inning against Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty (3-2) was his fourth long ball in the last five games. Rizzo’s 198 homers with the Cubs ties him with Hank Sauer for ninth in team history. The next homer will be No. 200 for a player who began his big-league career — and went deep once — with the Padres.
But Rizzo was more interested in the fourth complete game and third shutout of Hendricks’ career, which he called ‘‘amazing.’’
The Cubs lead the majors with six shutouts this season; no other team has more than three. The last time a Cubs team had this many shutouts after 29 games was 1908, otherwise known as the last year the Cubs won the World Series until 2016.
One could argue the Cubs are playing their best baseball since 2016. As Rizzo put it, they’re ‘‘locked in and winning every day.’’ Maybe not every day, but close to it.
What better way to open a 10-game homestand and a stretch of 26 games in 27 days?
‘‘There’s a feel,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Analytically speaking, it’s hard to describe, and you cannot put numbers on it. But it’s a feel, and it exists. There’s another dimension out there, brother. And right now, when you’re playing in that other dimension, everybody feels it, and you’ve got to ride it as long as you can.’’