OAKLAND -- Talk of Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks beginning to mount a National League Cy Young Award bid began to percolate a week ago, and after the righty's dominant performance Sunday against the A's, it will presumably continue.
"He's just about to take over the ERA lead," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He was near perfect and everything was working. He was on top of his game."
Hendricks (11-7) allowed one run on three hits over 7 ⅓ innings, guiding the Cubs to a 3-1 win over Oakland Sunday at the Coliseum for a series sweep. He retired 17 straight A's batters before Marcus Semien hit a solo homer in the eighth, ending his day, but Pedro Strop got the next two outs and Aroldis Chapman saved his third game as a member of the Cubs to preserve the win.
"I just wanted to make pitches, and I did a good job of that," Hendricks said. "But there's still a lot more to do."
Hendricks has allowed one run in two August starts and owns the league's second-lowest ERA. Opponents have scored five total runs off the righty since July 1, and he deftly maneuvered the A's lineup Sunday. He's allowed three runs or fewer in his last 14 starts dating back to May 22.
Maddon first mentioned Hendricks' Cy Young-caliber numbers after his shutout on Aug. 1 against the Marlins. On a team with Jon Lester and 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, Hendricks has been their equal, especially over the last two months.
He needed to be sharp, too. A's starter Sean Manaea matched him through five scoreless innings, but allowed leadoff homers to Kris Bryant in the sixth and Jorge Soler in the seventh. Anthony Rizzo tacked on an RBI in the eighth, but the Cubs left the bases loaded against A's reliever Liam Hendriks to end the frame.
Manaea was the hard-luck loser, falling to 3-7 despite giving up just two runs. He's received only eight runs of support in his last six games.
"He pitched great," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It was just a couple of swings which ended up being two runs for them."
Chicago (69-41) surrendered just three runs over the three-game series. The Cubs are winners of seven straight, are a season-high 28 games over .500, and own the best record in the Majors. The A's, meanwhile, have lost eight of their last nine and have their worst record (48-63) through 111 games since 1997.
"This is trending in the right direction," Maddon said. "It's up to us to take care of maintaining that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Special delivery: Bryant launched the first pitch he saw in the sixth inning halfway into the left-field bleachers to put an end to a scoreless game. It was his 27th homer of the season, setting a career-high.
"Right now everything is going good," Bryant said. "It feels like we can win every game out there. The off days have been huge, to help get our minds right a little bit."
Where did the offense go?: Oakland entered this weekend's series coming off a three-game series vs. the Angels in which they scored 18 runs. While the A's ran into a daunting triumvirate of Lester, Arrieta and Hendricks, they also struggled to string together quality at-bats. The A's only advanced one runner past second base in their past two games.
"That's why you lose games," Melvin said. "Granted, we had some decent pitching performances, certainly today, but we couldn't do enough offensively to put some pressure on them." More >
Getting it done: Anthony Rizzo drove in an insurance run in the eighth, his 80th RBI of the year, which is fourth in the NL. It was the only RBI not produced by a home run.
"We're just playing baseball and having a good time doing it," Rizzo said. "It's great and we want to keep playing good baseball."
Alonso helps Manaea out: Sean Manaea ran into trouble in the second and third innings, yet didn't allow a run. His third inning was particularly dicey, as the lefty loaded the bases with no outs. But Rizzo grounded to Yonder Alonso, who threw home for the forceout, and Ben Zobrist lined into an inning-ending double play to Alonso the next at-bat. Manaea's high-wire act came at a cost -- he needed 68 pitches to get through the first three innings.
"Before that I was just going out there and throwing it and hoping they wouldn't hit it," Manaea said. "After I got out of the jam, I really sat in the dugout and told myself, 'You have to really focus here if you want to go more than three, four innings.' That was a big thing for me."
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
The A's won a challenge in the seventh after replay showed Alonso tagged Matt Szczur out on a wide throw to seventh after he was initially ruled safe.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: The Cubs return home to Wrigley Field to open a 10-game homestand on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. CT. John Lackey was moved up a day to make the start, giving Jason Hammel an extra day coming off the bereavement list. Lackey is 4-2 with an ERA of 4.02 in six starts against his former team.
A's: The A's remain home, opening a four-game series at 7:05 p.m PT with the Orioles on Monday at the Coliseum. Kendall Graveman (7-7, 4.46) will pitch for Oakland, coming off a start Wednesday against the Angels in which he allowed six runs in four innings. Still, the righty is 6-1 with a 3.89 ERA in his last 12 starts.