Hendricks, Cubs flying high as Deadline approaches

July 30th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- The diverging paths of the Cubs and Cardinals were clear in the midst of their game on Sunday afternoon. While the teams squared off at Busch Stadium, news began breaking that St. Louis was finalizing trades involving Jordan Montgomery, Chris Stratton and Jordan Hicks.

It is the kind of Deadline that the Cubs experienced in each of the past two summers and could have repeated this year. Now, even with a 3-0 loss on Sunday, the North Siders are one of baseball’s hottest teams and look like a club primed to make additions before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

“We love where we're at,” Cubs starter  said. “We know exactly what we've got in here, and we're super excited where we're headed.”

What the Cubs have right now is a team that just rattled off an eight-game winning streak -- the team’s longest run since 2016 -- and has won 15 of 22 games dating back to July 4. Chicago is four games back of first place in the National League Central standings and 3 1/2 back of the NL Wild Card.

The Cubs are now heading home to face the Reds in a four-game series at Wrigley Field, where fans will file in expecting winning baseball and possible Deadline reinforcements. It should be the type of environment Hendricks experienced plenty during the Cubs’ run of five playoff berths in six years before the recent rebuild.

“I bet the energy will start picking up,” Hendricks said. “The better we play, the more we're in position to take this division. That's right where you want to be, man, playing good baseball and being in the thick of it. It's such a good atmosphere at Wrigley when you're right in that.

“I know everybody in here is gonna love playing and those meaningful games down the stretch now.”

Hendricks, who is the only Cubs player remaining from the 2016 World Series team, cracked a smile when asked if he has told some of his newer teammates about the Friendly Confines during a postseason run.

“A lot of these guys have been some visitors, on the other side,” Hendricks said. “It's a lot better being on this side, having the energy come at you instead of having to combat it.”

Similarly, it feels a lot better for the Cubs players to be on the other side of Trade Deadline questions. As Chicago has pulled itself out of a significant hole (10 games under .500 on June 8), the tenor has changed. Instead of weighing trading their stars for prospects, the Cubs are looking at ways to improve the roster.

“The consistency of the group, the belief, the group is just coming together as of now,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We still have imperfections just like everybody else. But like I said, belief, and confidence is a really powerful thing.”

It also made Sunday’s loss lack the kind of weight of similar defeats earlier this season.

Hendricks turned in seven innings, helping the bullpen as the Cubs navigate a stretch of 16 games in a row with no off-days. The veteran righty limited the Cardinals to three runs in a quality start, but the North Side nine (following a stretch with seven-plus runs in seven of the past 11 games) was blanked by lefty Steven Matz and two St. Louis relievers.

Losses like that sting less when the six-game trek away from Wrigley Field featured a 5-1 ledger.

“Really good road trip,” Ross said. “Excited to get home.”

Hendricks said the team is also looking forward to getting beyond the 5 p.m. CT Deadline.

“Honestly, the mental lift will come in the next couple of days when it's over,” Hendricks said. “To not have to get these questions in another couple of days and just questions about how the team is doing, how you're feeling, how it's going -- that's what we want to focus on.”

Hendricks was asked if he at least appreciates how the tone of the Deadline-related questions has shifted over the past two weeks.

“I do. I do appreciate that,” he said. “We just come in and attack the day and, like we've said, try and block out all the noise we can. But we're excited for the next 48 hours. [We’ll] try and go win these ballgames at home, keep the momentum going.”