Rather, Hendricks looked rejuvenated in the 2-1 extra-inning loss to the Giants. Across 8 1/3 innings, he located his fastball, threw his curve with confidence and baffled the Giants with a devastating changeup. Of Hendricks' eight strikeouts, seven were of the swinging variety on his signature change. He threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 31 batters he faced and walked only one.
"It was a much better feeling out there," Hendricks said. "The fastball command was finally there and it just opened up the rest of the game for me. Willy [catcher Willson Contreras] and I were just really on the same page, mixing pitches, keeping them off balance, and that's the game I have to play."
Manager Joe Maddon demonstrated confidence in his right-hander, letting Hendricks begin the ninth inning despite a pitch count of 102. After a one-out walk, Maddon turned to lefty Randy Rosario to record the final two outs of the inning.
"I thought Kyle was outstanding," Maddon said. "That's one of the best games I've seen him throw. I mean physically, his stuff was that good. The velocity was better than normal. The location of the fastball was outstanding. The changeup was a swing-and-miss pitch again."
The Cubs offense could not pick up Hendricks, who was matched pitch for pitch by rookie Andrew Suarez. The combination of Suarez and five Giants relievers held the Cubs' prolific lineup to just four hits.
In the 11th inning, the Giants notched a pair of one-out hits off Steve Cishek. Maddon brought in right-hander Pedro Strop, and after Brandon Crawford was intentionally walked to load the bases, Pablo Sandoval slashed a walk-off single to left to lift the Giants in the series opener.
Despite the loss, Maddon did not understate the importance of Hendricks' outing Monday.
"That's the outing we've been looking for with the hitting that we've been doing recently," Maddon said. "Going forward, that becomes contagious sometimes, when you've got a guy that pitches like that. I really believe you could see that version of Kyle most of the time for the rest of the season."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED David Bote and Ian Happ both inconspicuously grounded out in the seventh inning, letting Hendricks -- who was only at 79 pitches through six innings -- stay in the game.
"If it came to the point when his at-bat came up," Maddon said, "if somebody had gotten on base I was going to hit for him. It was two outs, nobody on -- I said, 'I'm not taking him out of this game.'"
Hendricks grounded out to first but pitched two more scoreless frames, as well as recording one out in the ninth, before departing. It was his longest outing since he threw a complete game on Aug. 1, 2016.
INJURY UPDATE Yu Darvish played catch before Monday's game for the first time since he received a cortisone shot in his right arm June 29. Maddon said Darvish, who has been sidelined since May 20 with tendinitis in his right triceps and had been shut down after suffering shoulder impingement, is "trending in the right direction."
SOUND SMART After falling behind in the count, 1-2, Javier Baez worked a first-inning walk. It was his first free pass since June 17, and Baez promptly stole his 17th base of the season. With 17 home runs as well, he's in serious 30-30 club contention. The last Cubs player to accomplish the feat was Sammy Sosa in 1995 (36 HR, 34 SB).
HE SAID IT "I knew what was wrong, and what I've been trying to work on. It was still inconsistent. It'd be one good, one bad, I couldn't repeat it. Today, in the third inning, something just clicked and I was able to repeat one after another. So that was a really good feeling." -- Hendricks, when asked if his mechanics felt different Monday.
UP NEXT Jose Quintana will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since April 28 when he faces the Giants at 9:15 p.m. CT on Tuesday at AT&T Park. After posting a 4.33 ERA throughout the month of June, the lefty began July with six innings of two-run ball against the Tigers on Wednesday to earn his seventh win of the season. Quintana will be hoping to avoid the long ball; after giving up two to the Tigers, he's allowed a home run in his last three starts.
Martin Oppegaard is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.