Hendricks a fitting, worthy starter for second-half opener
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PITTSBURGH — Kyle Hendricks will start the Cubs’ first game after the All-Star break against the Texas Rangers on Friday at Wrigley Field.
While there may not be a lot of substance in the symbolism, it’s hard to argue the honor isn’t earned. It’s also hard to argue that the Cubs could choose a better starting pitcher right now to set a tone in the second-half opener.
As the rotation crumpled toward the break like a five-car train wreck, it was the caboose — nominal fifth starter Hendricks — who somehow kept rolling.
‘‘Nobody talks about him,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘He’s done a hell of a job.’’
Hendricks has done so well that he goes to the break with the best ERA (2.55, sixth in the majors) on a starting staff that still leads the big leagues in rotation ERA despite a three-week slide. He’s the only Cubs starter with a victory in the last 13 games (2-0) and made the All-Star snub list of at least one national publication.
Hendricks hadn’t heard of the so-called snub and didn’t seem to put much weight into it anyway.
‘‘It’s just a superlative,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s good for that to be said, but I don’t consider it a snub. A lot of those guys on that team more than deserve it. I’m just locked in on doing what I do, getting myself ready for the first start [of the second half].’’
That included two scoreless innings of relief Thursday against the Braves during his long break between starts and a bullpen session Sunday.
‘‘That was spectacular,’’ Maddon said of Hendricks’ relief work.
Maddon also said he’s not surprised Hendricks is getting some attention during All-Star time.
‘‘Kyle’s been as steady as anybody among us,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I probably pulled him earlier [from starts] than anybody else in the first half, and that may have contributed to rest and why he’s feeling so good right now. But he’s definitely a name that deserved [All-Star] consideration.’’
Hendricks (7-6) is focused on finishing in the second half what he has started in the first. If he does, it might go a long way toward the Cubs finishing off a National League Central championship.
‘‘With the numbers and people saying that [All-Star talk], I feel good about where I’m at,’’ he said. ‘‘That plays into my confidence and where I feel my game’s at right now and how I’ve been pitching.’’
And if no All-Star selection means he gets extra downtime, he’s fine with that.
‘‘I’m here for this team,’’ he said. ‘‘I know what my role is on this team, and I want to be that consistent guy that goes out there every five days and the guys know what they’re going to get.’’
Notes: Jason Hammel (7-5, 3.46 ERA) and John Lackey (7-5, 3.70) will follow Hendricks in the rotation against the Rangers.
— Until he grounded out in the eighth inning Sunday, Anthony Rizzo had hits in eight consecutive at-bats, including four doubles and a triple. He closed the first half with a .299 average and a 1.007 OPS.
— The four All-Stars in the Cubs’ lineup Sunday (Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell) combined to go 10-for-19 with three runs scored and three RBI.
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