Hendricks battles in 3rd to extend dominance

Righty owns league's best ERA, has allowed 3 ER or fewer in past 17 starts

Hendricks battles in 3rd to extend dominance

SAN DIEGO -- The key inning on Wednesday was the third for the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks. The Padres had pulled within one after Wil Myers' RBI triple. There was nobody out, and Hendricks had to face San Diego's 3-4-5 hitters.

But Hendricks didn't blink. The right-hander got both Yangervis Solarte and Alex Dickerson to pop up to third baseman Javier Baez, and then he struck out Ryan Schimpf to end the inning. That helped Hendricks notch his 12th win in the Cubs' 6-3 victory at Petco Park.

"The biggest at-bats were when I had Myers at third and got two popups," he said. "The command got better at the end, and [I] picked up a few strikeouts and a few more easy outs. I need to get that from the get-go.

"You learn from the good, you learn from the bad. You have to deal with both of those things."

Hendricks hasn't had much bad happen this season, and despite giving up two runs over six innings, he still leads the Major Leagues with a 2.19 ERA. Who would've predicted that with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester on the Cubs' staff? Hendricks has given up three or fewer earned runs in each of his past 17 starts dating to May 22, the longest stretch by any Major League pitcher.

"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. "It may not be his best effort, but I still thought he was pretty good today."

Maddon thought he saw more 90-mph fastballs than in previous starts by Hendricks, which shows that the right-hander is still strong.

"He's just taken it to another level now," Maddon said of his fifth starter. "He's in that 26-, 27-year-old range where a young pitcher who has Major League experience can find his next level."

Success leads to confidence, and Hendricks is one of many young Cubs who have done well and feel they belong in the big leagues, Maddon said.

"More than anything, he believes he can do this," Maddon said.

"Where I'm at, I'm just trying to stay where I'm at," Hendricks said. "Keep the consistency, keep my pitches feeling good. I'm staying in my routine, not doing too much and just riding it out until I feel something change."

It's working.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.