Emotional night to remember was also ‘frustrating’ for White Sox’ Liam Hendriks

“If I didn’t give up two runs, that’s a tie game,” Liam Hendriks said. “We are looking at a chance to win and continuing to play.”

SHARE Emotional night to remember was also ‘frustrating’ for White Sox’ Liam Hendriks
Liam Hendriks yells after pitching in the eighth inning Monday.

Liam Hendriks yells after pitching in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Liam Hendriks’ feel-good story didn’t feel so good to him.

Hendriks did, after all, allow two runs in a 6-4 loss to the Angels Monday night.

He was a national story, the cancer survivor returning to pitch for the first time since treatment for stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was emotional and inspiring, with tears and goose bumps in the stands and in living rooms — perhaps in the press box as well — when Hendriks took the mound in the eighth inning with the White Sox trailing 4-3.

Hendriks felt good physically and his stuff was good — he threw consistently in the 95-96 mph range — and the metrics on his pitches left him satisfied. Perhaps the adrenaline flowing in the moment caused him to overthrow his slider a few too many times. But when his 27-pitch effort was over, the Angels had reached base with three hits and a walk and pushed across two runs to take a three-run lead.

“If the camera was on me, you would have seen a very animated Liam in the dugout,” Hendriks said. “It was, yeah, frustrating.”

Eloy Jimenez homering in the ninth to cut the margin to two only made Hendriks feel worse.

“If I didn’t give up two runs, that’s a tie game,” Hendriks said. “We are looking at a chance to win and continuing to play.”

Hendriks beat cancer and beat the odds coming back as soon as he did, and he had the night of his life in many respects. To many, the results didn’t matter.

But he was not in a celebratory mood.

“You could see it,” first baseman Andrew Vaughn said. “After a great accomplishment of being able to come back, he’s sitting in his chair pissed off about his outing.”

“That’s why he is who he is, that’s why he’s done what he’s done,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “That’s why he pitches the ninth, and he’ll do it again at some point.”

The plan was to let Hendriks, signed to a $54 million contract before the 2021 season to be the man in the ninth, ease in to a situation like Monday’s. Not being the closer felt different.

“That’s mine,” he said of pitching the ninth inning. “But I need to earn it. There’s no freebies, there’s no handouts. I will get there, and I will earn it myself.”

He was ready, he said, to get back in as soon as Tuesday. His preparation for the comeback was done with being able to pitch on three straight nights. He warmed up in the ninth when the Angels put two on against Kendall Graveman who was protecting a four-run lead. Graveman finished the game.

“Physically I feel fine,” he said. “Obviously there’s still little aches and pains, but I don’t feel as bad as I did at the end of last year. If you remember those last few outings, those two in San Diego and the one at home against Minnesota, I was practically limping and not being able to move my right arm after those outings.”

Hendriks’ cancer was detected in December, but he suspects he had it last season.

“So everything feels a heck of a lot better than it felt last year, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s just not quite coming out at 99 miles per hour yet. But that’ll come. I have no doubt about that. Now it’s just making sure I throw strikes on that breaking ball, and the good thing is I

still got six [swings and misses on Monday].

“I didn’t have the killer instinct that I’m used to with two strikes. Usually when I get two strikes, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’m punching them out, in my eyes at least. I didn’t quite have that today.

“It’ll come.”

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