Road remains bumpy for Hendricks, Cubs

Chicago falls to 22-35, righty's ERA soars to 5.16 away from Wrigley

August 11th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- The boos rained down from the Great American Ball Park stands in the sixth inning on Saturday night. Reds fans wanted to witness history, but Cubs pitcher Alec Mills sent four pitches well outside the strike zone's area code, denying Aristides Aquino any swings.

Mills later struck out Aquino in the seventh inning to some disappointed gasps from the crowd, eliminating the possibility of a four-homer night for the scorching-hot Reds rookie. Even so, Aquino's three blasts -- two off Cubs starter -- went a long way toward helping send Chicago to a 10-1 loss that continued the team's road woes.

The National League Central-leading North Siders have been living off the fat of their 41-19 record at Wrigley Field this season. Chicago is 22-35 away from the Friendly Confines, and its loss Saturday will make this the 11th consecutive road series that ends in either a loss or tie.

Hendricks has been the embodiment of the road troubles.

Aquino's big night -- one that included tying MLB records by homering in three consecutive innings and tallying seven in the first 10 games of his career -- helped boost Hendricks' ERA to 5.16 in 12 road starts this season. In front of his home audience, the right-hander has fashioned a tidy 1.98 ERA in 10 starts. He has allowed a .194 average and .543 OPS at home, compared to a .302 average and .867 OPS on the road.

Along those same lines, the Cubs have a 3.35 ERA at home and a 4.84 ERA on the road this season.

Hendricks felt his road numbers were more of a fluke than a trend.

"It's just what's happening," he said with a shrug. "Obviously, we're comfortable at home. I think that goes for the group, and myself included. I'm very comfortable at home. I've just had a couple blowups on the road that have inflated that, I think. I've had some good games on the road, too. I just need to be more consistent overall."

To that end, Hendricks' three worst starts of the year have all come on the road and have included 19 earned runs in 12 innings combined. In his other nine road outings, the righty has turned in a 2.94 ERA. Peeling back another layer, though, it is easy to spot where things have gone awry for Hendricks on the road.

On Saturday night, for example, the Reds went 7-for-9 with 15 total bases against his sinker. Per Statcast, Hendricks has allowed a .313 average and .566 slugging percentage against his sinker on the road. At home, those marks are .215 and .355, respectively. Similarly, batters have a .346 average and .587 slugging against his changeup on the road (far above the .198 and .264 marks at home).

Against the Reds, who are trying to claw their way back into the NL Wild Card picture, Hendricks allowed seven runs on a dozen hits in 2 2/3 innings. He allowed three home runs, including one to Nick Senzel in the second. Aquino took the Cubs starter deep in the second and third, and then added a third shot off reliever Dillon Maples in the fourth.

"They were just on him," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks. "Even if he made what would appear to be a good pitch, it was hit. It was just one of those nights. This time through the pitching rotation, we've had a difficult time with some really good starters. That happens during the course of the season. These guys are well. They're fine. They're going to come back."

Through the first three games against the Cubs this series, Aquino has gone 6-for-12 with five home runs and eight RBIs. That included going deep on Thursday against veteran Cole Hamels, who lasted only three innings. Aquino is also the first Reds rookie to homer in four straight games since Eric Davis did it in 1984.

Maddon saw the resemblance, both in batting stance and in the number (44) on the back of the jersey.

"Is that him or is it Eric Davis? I don't know. Right? It's the same number," Maddon said. "[Davis] used to do that kind of stuff. Pretty impressive. Pretty impressive. Give him credit. I mean, he didn't miss anything. He hasn't missed anything this whole series. He's a good-looking kid."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball’s official statistician, Aquino became the 13th player on record to hit a home run in three straight innings. As it happens, the last player to achieve the feat before Aquino was Cubs slugger Kris Bryant, who did so back on May 17 against the Nationals.

That May 17-19 set in Washington also marks the last series win on the road for Chicago. Against the NL Central, the Cubs have not won a road set this season, going 0-7 in division series entering this weekend’s games against the Reds.

"I can't give you a solid answer," Maddon said of the persistent road issues. "They're the same guys. We've been through this before. We've played well on the road. I don't know. I don't know. The other teams have gotten better."