Hendricks gets 12th win behind 3 Cubs HRs

Ross and Co. focused despite uncertainty as Trade Deadline approaches

July 17th, 2021

PHOENIX -- After the Cubs traded outfielder Joc Pederson to the Braves on Thursday, questions remained about what’s to come for the team over the next two weeks.

Was it the first move of many? How different could the roster look after the July 30 Trade Deadline? Who will stick around from the core of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and others?

For manager David Ross, he can’t worry about those possibilities. Coming out of the All-Star break, his goal is to help the Cubs play better baseball. And on Friday night, they did just that to begin the second half.

Rizzo hit one of three Chicago homers and tossed six strong innings to earn his MLB-leading 12th win of the season, as the Cubs defeated the D-backs, 5-1, in the series opener at Chase Field. Chicago ended the first half with 13 losses in 15 games -- struggles it hopes to leave in the past.

“How I get these guys to focus on that they’re a really good team, and there’s a lot of talent in this room, is that we’ve just got to focus on today,” Ross said. “The fact that you’ve got contracts coming up or you might get traded in two weeks -- or what might happen tomorrow or two weeks or the end of the season -- doesn’t affect anything that we’re doing today.”

There may be some uncertainty surrounding the club, but the Cubs also may not be out of the postseason hunt, especially if they heat up in late July. Even without Pederson, many strong players remain on the team, as Ross noted.

Hendricks continues to deal, as he allowed only one run while working around six hits and three walks and striking out four. He stranded at least one runner in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth, which included escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam with no damage in the fourth.

Although Chicago wasn’t faring well before the break, Hendricks has been on a roll. Over his past 12 starts, the right-hander is 10-0 with a 2.48 ERA.

Like his manager and teammates, Hendricks is keeping his focus on the field as trade rumors surrounding the club continue to circulate.

“You just have to keep reminding yourself we’re going to be playing baseball no matter what and it happens all the time, guys come and go,” Hendricks said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s part of the game. You get close with guys, and they leave. But everyone that enters this clubhouse is a part of the family, whoever we have at the moment, so that’s what we focus on.”

Fortunately for Hendricks and Chicago, that clubhouse still currently houses Rizzo. The longtime first baseman gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead with a 413-foot solo homer off D-backs starter Madison Bumgarner in the top of the inning. It was the first time Rizzo had homered against Bumgarner, as he was previously 3-for-19 in his career against the left-hander.

Patrick Wisdom and Jason Heyward also went deep for Chicago, which extended its lead with a three-run seventh against Arizona right-hander Matt Peacock.

The Cubs will now have an opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time since June 24.

“That stretch was tough, and we really needed that reset over the All-Star break,” Rizzo said. “Coming out today, the message was going 1-0. It’s so cliché and it’s so easy to say, but it’s hard to do.”

That’s what the Cubs will continue to try to do, even if the names in the lineup change before the end of July. Ross played on teams that dealt key players at the Trade Deadline -- notably the 2014 Red Sox -- but it’s a new experience for him as a manager.

“It’s the first time I’ve gone through that, in Joc. That stinks, man,” Ross said. “You pour your heart and soul into these guys, and they’ve been competing, and they’re competing for you. And you rely on those guys and their hard work and their attitude and their professionalism. I have history with a lot of these guys.”

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer will continue talks with other teams and potentially complete more trades. The core that Ross is so familiar with may not remain intact.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Cubs are 45-46, which has them eight games back in the National League Central and 7 1/2 back of the second NL Wild Card spot. But they’re still going to try to win as many games as possible.

“I truly believe [Hoyer’s] taking all the information in and doing what’s best for this group,” Ross said. “And my job is to come out here and compete and try to win baseball games, with a lot of talent on that field right now.”