Hendricks ends regular season with ERA title

Despite allowing 4 runs over 5 innings, righty leads Majors with 2.13 mark

Hendricks ends regular season with ERA title

CINCINNATI -- Sunday's season finale against the Reds was just supposed to be a tuneup for starter Kyle Hendricks before the National League Division Series begins with Game 1 on Friday (FS1, 9 p.m. ET/8 CT).

Hendricks turned in one of his more underwhelming performances of the season, tying his season low for a start with five innings pitched and allowing a season-high-tying four earned runs in the Cubs' 7-4 comeback win.

The start ended an impressive stretch for Hendricks, who had not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 17, a stretch of 22 starts, which was the longest active streak in the Majors. Hendricks was the fourth pitcher in Cubs history to have such a streak for at least 22 starts.

With Hendricks' Major League-leading 1.99 ERA rising to 2.13 Sunday, it may also have NL Cy Young Award implications. Regardless, there's still a lot to be happy with coming out of Hendricks' third Major League season.

Hendricks' ERA set a career best, as did his wins (16), innings pitched (190), strikeouts (170) and WHIP (0.98). Even after the rough outing, Hendricks still holds the top Major League ERA, his first ERA title, and his WHIP is second behind Nationals starter Max Scherzer.

"At this point in my career, now it's all said and done, definitely got to sit back and reflect a little bit on it," Hendricks said of his ERA title. "I just personally never thought I'd be in this situation. … But behind that number, getting guys out, there's a lot that goes into that. Defense, I'm such a pitching-to-contact type of guy. Defense has to play for me, and catchers, they're a big part of it too, just preventing runs. So couldn't have done it without all of those guys."

While the accolades are a nice touch to an unexpected breakout for Hendricks, he quickly has to pivot to the postseason. Despite the highly talented rotation of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and John Lackey, Hendricks may get to match up against opponents' No. 1 or No. 2 starters, given his regular-season success.

"When you're going up against those kind of guys, you've got to go a little deeper into games," Hendricks said. "Just the fact that I've been better at that this year, I have more confidence in that, that'll help. But also, they're going to go up against our lineup, so that's always a big plus in our column."

The Cubs realize that if they're going to go deep into the playoffs they're going to have to continue to do what they've done well all year, and that starts on the mound.

"He's obviously part of the winning formula we've had all year, and that starts with pitching, one through five, all of our pitchers, and the guys that we also started up to here have just done an outstanding job," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Come playoff time, pitching and defense wins championships."

Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.