Kyle Hendricks out-pitches Zack Greinke as Cubs jump to 4-1 start
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PHOENIX – If this is the way the back end of the Cubs’ rotation is going to pitch all year, they might as well fast-forward the season to October.
One night after Jason Hammel allowed just one run in six innings, fifth-starter Kyle Hendricks outpitched $206.5-million Diamondbacks ace Zack Grienke to beat the Diamondbacks 4-2 at Chase Field and run the Cubs’ record to 4-1 with one game left before the team heads home for Monday’s Wrigley Field opener.
One full turn through the rotation, the starters are 4-0 with a 2.76 group ERA – and that includes John Lackey’s six runs in six innings Thursday.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do, honestly,” said Hendricks, who ran his regular-season scoreless streak to 15 innings (counting 12 in 2015) before the DBacks scored on a two-out wild pitch in the fourth. “I mean, we’ve got all the pieces here. We lost [Kyle] Schwarber, which is big for us. But at the same time, we’ve got plenty of other guys who can step in and fill that.
“Our staff did a pretty good job first time through, and now it’s just about keeping it going from here.”
Hammel, who struggled the second half of last year, and Hendricks, who was back-and-forth with his mechanics much of 2015, both carried their strong springs into their season debuts.
As the four-game series in Arizona opened, Cubs manager Joe Maddon talked about the makeup of his rotation and the importance of the back pair.
“I want to believe with the experience that Jason had last year it’s going to help this year, and also I think Kyle gained a lot of confidence based on the conclusion of last season,” Maddon said. “To get a complete, consistent season out of Hammer and Kyle would be the important component.”
The Cubs pounced on Greinke – who was coming off a clunker in the season opener — for three runs in the first Saturday night, with Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo hitting consecutive one-out singles, and Kris Bryant following with a double off the glove of the diving shortstop.
Miguel Montero followed Bryant with a sacrifice fly. Rizzo’s hit was an RBI roller up the middle on a 1-2 changeup he reached for and poked past Greinke.
“It was a good pitch, and just one of those things where it found a hole,” Rizzo said. “That’s the game of baseball at its finest right there. …
“Those runs were huge for us.”
Hendricks did the rest for 6 2/3 innings, using primarily a sinker-changeup combination to strike out five and allow single, two-out runs in the fourth and seventh.
“He was outstanding,” Maddon said. “That was just a continuation of spring training for him. He made good pitches all night long – ball down, on the edges. He was really sharp.”
One of the few curve balls he threw made Diamondbacks MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt look bad swinging for a third strike.
“That was the best one I’ve thrown in a long, long time,” he said. “So that gave me a little confidence in that going forward. Hopefully, I can just keep the feel with that.”
Hendricks even delivered one of the seven Cub hits against Greinke, an opposite-field single leading off the second.
The Cubs have won the last two games in which Greinke pitched against them. The former Cy Young Award winner fell to 4-3 with a 4.01 ERA in nine career starts against the Cubs. He’s 138-92 with a 3.36 ERA against everyone else.