SAN DIEGO -- Remember Ray Prim? The left-hander won 13 games for the Cubs in 1945, the last time they played in the World Series. Prim was the last Cubs pitcher to lead the National League in ERA. Kyle Hendricks could change that.
Hendricks got a big boost from the offense before he took the mound, thanks to a three-run first, as the Cubs beat the Padres, 6-3, on Wednesday at Petco Park to sweep the series and improve to 36 games over .500 for the first time since 1945, when they finished that season at 98-56.
Hendricks began the day leading the Major Leagues with a 2.16 ERA, and despite serving up two runs, he's still on top at 2.19, ahead of the Giants' Madison Bumgarner (2.44). Hendricks had to battle as the Padres' leadoff man reached in the first four innings. The Cubs' right-hander has given up three or fewer earned runs in each of his past 17 starts, the longest streak of any Major League pitcher this year.
"You don't see the velocity and don't think there's a strikeout in there, but it's the movement and the changeup that provide the strikeout and his know-how," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks, who fanned eight. "It may not have been his best effort, but I still thought he was pretty good today."
Ben Zobrist hit a two-run triple in the first and rookie Willson Contreras smacked a solo homer in the seventh to spark the Cubs, who have won 22 of their past 27 games. Cubs starting pitchers are 15-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 22 games in August, totaling 17 quality starts -- including three against the Padres this week.
"Offensively, we just didn't really muster much, no consistency of at-bats," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We weren't really in a lot of positions to score. You could chalk it up to a lot of teams having trouble with [Jon] Lester, [Jake] Arrieta and Hendricks this year. But we have to figure out a way."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Quick start: Some fans had yet to find their seats at Petco Park before the Cubs got started. Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant both doubled and then scored on Zobrist's triple in the first against starter Paul Clemens before Jorge Soler hit a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead. The Cubs are 41-10 when Fowler scores at least one run, and they now have outscored opponents, 84-53, in the first inning.
Ace of on-base: With his leadoff double in the first inning, Travis Jankowski extended his on-base streak to 23 games, the longest such active streak in the Majors. Jankowski has batted first in 49 games for the Padres, and he's reached base in 26 of those leadoff plate appearances -- good enough for a .531 on-base percentage, the best in the Majors.
"[I'm] just trying to get on base any way I can, whether that's a hit, a walk, reaching on base with an error -- just anything to start a rally," Jankowski said. More >
Vroom, vroom: Bryant and Zobrist both singled to open the Cubs' sixth, and one out later, they moved up on a wild pitch by Clemens. Addison Russell then lined a ball toward shortstop Luis Sardinas, but he overran it for an error. Bryant and Zobrist both scored to open a 5-2 lead. Russell now has 83 RBIs, leading NL shortstops.
Captain hook: When Clemens finds a groove with his curveball, the pitch has been practically unhittable this season. Entering the game, opponents were hitting just .105 with a .353 OPS against the hook. Problem is, it typically takes him a few innings to get a feel for the pitch. He didn't use it much in the early stages, when Chicago scored three runs. But as the game progressed, he began to use it more frequently and notched four of his six strikeouts with the curveball.
"I feel like I'm right there, man," said Clemens, who spoke about potentially ramping up his pregame bullpen sessions in the future to try and simulate early-game situations. "It's just a matter of limiting the damage early in the game and working into the seventh inning."
"It's a similar blueprint. Nobody wants to be patient, nobody wants to wait, everybody wants to win it this year. The Cubs are in position to finally do that. You look back to 2013, I think Anthony Rizzo was the only name on the roster at that point in time. … They did a very good job in stocking it up pretty quick." -- Green, on the Padres' looking to emulate Chicago's path to success
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Ryan Schimpf notched a double and a triple on Wednesday, adding to his already-absurd extra-base-hit totals. Schimpf now has 40 hits on the season, and only 10 of them are singles. He's on pace to become just the second batter in history to record at least 200 plate appearances with a batting average below .250 and a slugging percentage above .550. Ken Griffey Jr. did so for Cincinnati in 2003.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: After an off-day on Thursday, the Cubs will open a three-game series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday. Lefty Mike Montgomery will make his second start for the Cubs. In his first outing, he took a no-hitter into the fifth against the Rockies and then served up a solo home run. This will be his first career appearance against the Dodgers. First pitch is scheduled for 9:10 p.m. CT.
Padres:Jarred Cosart returns to Miami to face his former club as the Padres open a three-game set with the Marlins on Friday at 4:10 p.m. PT. The 26-year-old right-hander came over to San Diego in the Andrew Cashner deal, and he has been sharp in his past two outings, tossing one-run ball in each.