Kyle Hendricks maintains his faith in Cubs’ bullpen
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The Cubs’ offense has sputtered, but the bullpen has gotten its share of criticism with a 7.03 ERA against the Nationals and Dodgers.
But that doesn’t mean the relievers won’t come through before the National League Championship Series ends, starter Kyle Hendricks said Monday.
‘‘They were our strength in the first half when the starters were struggling,’’ he said. ‘‘I know they’ll be there for us. I think it’s the teams we’re playing. The Nationals and Dodgers have deep lineups. They work at-bats. At the end of games, they’re taking advantage of some bad pitches. Really, that’s it.
‘‘We relied on them a lot [during the season], and we’re going to rely on them going forward.’’
Jason Heyward’s struggles at the plate mirror those of his teammates, but keeping the veteran outfielder in the lineup also is a matter of saving runs, manager Joe Maddon said.
‘‘From where I stand in the dugout, you look out at the field and see Jason in right, Javy [Baez] at second, and how good does that make you feel?’’ Maddon said.
‘‘You notice how Jason is always in the right place on line drives to right. He does that on his own. That’s not coming from the bench. He’s so aware defensively.
‘‘I just try to balance [Heyward’s hitting and defense] out. He’s a winner. He’s been part of winning situations from the moment he’s gotten to the big leagues. He has an impact on everybody on that bench, on that team during the course of the game. So when you’re playing under these circumstances and he’s not out there, it doesn’t feel as good.’’
Hendricks now has been through enough big-game situations to know the pressure of must-wins — and how to ignore it.
‘‘You have to focus on what you can control, so for me, that’s making good pitches,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘I have the utmost faith that our guys are going to swing the bat well.
‘‘But when you’re struggling [to hit] and in a 0-0 ballgame, you just can’t give in, no matter what. You’d almost rather walk a guy than give in on a 3-1 count. You have to have a careful mindset because one pitch could be the difference.
‘‘For us, this is just Game 170. We’re down 2-0, and obviously we know we need to get wins, but approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We just have to play our brand of ball.’’
Maddon shrugs off criticism
Maddon was on the defensive about his decision to put John Lackey in over Wade Davis in the ninth inning Sunday.
“Whatever the narrative is, it’s really a false narrative,” Maddon said. “[Davis] was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead. He was not going to pitch more than three outs. That’s it.”
Lackey gave up a walk-off home run to Justin Turner to give the Dodgers a 2-0 series lead before traveling to Wrigley Field. But Maddon said he really doesn’t care what Cubs fans think on Twitter about his decisions.
“The moment I start worrying about [social media], I really need to retire,” Maddon said. “That was all predetermined. Wade was not warming up to come in the game.”
Got it, Cubs fans?
After hitting his second home run of the playoffs, Turner has nine hits in 21 at-bats and leads the postseason with 10 RBI.
Hendricks admitted that Turner is hard to pitch against.
“[Turner] puts together an at-bat every time up there; he doesn’t strike out very easily,” Hendricks said.
Contributing: Madeline Kenney
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