'I'm ready for him to retire': Hendricks dominates Cards again

June 25th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Hendricks only had a smile and shrug for another round of questions about his career-long dominance of the Cardinals' lineup. Cubs manager David Ross speculated that familiarity, coupled with the heightened stage of Chicago's long-standing rivalry with St. Louis, might offer the best explanation.

Whatever the driving force, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol has seen enough of the veteran pitcher.

"I'm ready for him to retire -- that's my thought on him," Marmol quipped after Hendricks dealt St. Louis a 3-0 loss on Friday night at Busch Stadium. "He does a nice job and baffles the [expletive] out of me every time. Knows what he’s doing, controls counts, mixes well and keeps guys off balance.

"Yeah, I’m tired of seeing his face."

Hendricks allowed one hit through five innings and pitched into the eighth, confounding the Cards with his low-octane fastballs and a blend of signature changeups and well-timed curves. He struck out six, issued one walk and ended with no runs on his line after 7 1/3 innings, thanks in part to an escape act by reliever Chris Martin in the eighth.

With that performance, Hendricks improved to 13-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 25 career starts against St. Louis. It made for a frustrating evening for a Cardinals club that remains tied with the Brewers atop the National League Central.

"He locks it in when the stage is big," Ross said. "Sometimes, your rivalry game is one of those stages."

How Hendricks attacked St. Louis
After his previous start -- one of four already this season in which Hendricks has given up at least six runs -- the Cubs veteran focused on fastball command in his side work. The right-hander then leaned on his fastball, and did so with precision, early in Friday's outing.

Hendricks and Chicago catcher Yan Gomes took note of how the Cardinals, in turn, adopted an aggressive approach. That played into the pitcher's hand.

"They were coming out swinging," Ross said. "You see some teams doing that every once in a while, because he throws a lot of strikes. It makes a lot of sense."

Through the first four innings, Hendricks had thrown more sinkers (18) than changeups (12). Going into the game, he led with his sinker in only four of his 13 starts this season.

Hendricks switched things up in the middle innings and the changeup finished as his most-used pitch (29), followed by the sinker (28), four-seamer (19) and curve (15).

In the seventh inning, Hendricks buried a curve in the dirt and was able to entice a strike-three swing from Nolan Arenado.

It was only the second strikeout with a curveball this season for Hendricks, the other coming against Travis d'Arnaud on Sunday.

"I was throwing some good ones," Hendricks said of his curve. "Even the bad ones, they were good shape, so I was using them to my advantage. Yan just kept calling it. He was calling it in really good counts where he was giving me room for error."

St. Louis has struggled against Corbin Burnes and Hendricks
When he lays his head down to sleep, and likely tosses and turns for several hours, it’s the face of Hendricks that Marmol is likely to see in his nightmares. Even though Hendricks came into Busch Stadium in one of the worst ruts of his career -- 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA -- he reverted to his usual dominant form against St. Louis. Marmol candidly admitted to being sick of seeing it.

On Friday, St. Louis was shut out for a sixth time this season. Two of them had come against reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Burnes. Losing to Hendricks, a pitcher who doesn’t break 90 mph very often, was a confoundingly different issue.

“You can’t discredit someone who knows how to pitch, and it doesn’t matter what the [velocity] is; it’s his ability to play chess all game and use his stuff effectively and different to each guy,” Marmol said. ”I understand the difference between him and Burnes, but you can always give credit to the guy throwing 97 and mixing well. But hats off too to Hendricks for doing it the ways he does it, for sure.”

Prior to Friday, the Cardinals had zipped to the top of the NL Central by beating up on losing teams (23-12, 5.2 runs a game) and by dominating the Pirates, Reds and Cubs (15-6). However, Hendricks silenced St. Louis’ bats from the start by surrendering just one hit over the game’s first five innings -- and Juan Yepez was retired on the basepaths while trying to stretch a single into a double.

Nolan Arenado has only been a Cardinal for a season and a half, so his history against Hendricks isn’t as steep as others in the organization. Still, Arenado -- who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout -- said he knew better than to discount the savvy righty and the struggles he had endured of late. While admitting that some of the balls hit Friday would have been home runs at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Arenado was more than willing to give Hendricks his due.

“When you play at Wrigley, some of those fly balls that we hit today, they’re probably homers there, but he probably gets some unfortunate breaks there and this ballpark is pretty good for him,” Arenado said. “Fly balls here won’t go out, but he made good pitches today, too.

“I think he’s just really good,” Arenado added. “I know going in, people were talking about his ERA, but when it comes to a pitcher like Kyle Hendricks, I don’t even look at his ERA. He’s really tough. He was due to have a big game and it was unfortunate it was against us.”