CHICAGO -- The night ended far too early for Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who had been eager to continue his standout season on a national stage. He can only be thankful that his postseason doesn't have to suffer the same fate.
Hendricks was forced from his third career playoff start after taking a line drive off his right forearm with two out in the fourth inning of National League Division Series Game 2 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs diagnosed him with a right forearm contusion after X-rays came back negative and do not expect the issue to preclude Hendricks from pitching whenever he's needed next.
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As Cubs manager Joe Maddon insisted after his team's 5-2 win over the Giants put the club up 2-0 in the NLDS: "He's fine."
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Hendricks wasn't fine in the moment, however, which is why Maddon ignored the 26-year-old when he briefly lobbied to remain in the game. Rather, it was what Hendricks showed that prompted the move.
Maddon and a team athletic trainer had hustled to the mound after Ángel Pagán lined a pitch off Hendricks' pitching arm with nobody aboard and the Cubs leading, 4-2. According to Statcast™, the ball had come off Pagan's bat at 93.7 mph.
Maddon asked Hendricks to test his arm with a few practice pitches, the first of which Hendricks yanked wide right of the plate. That heightened Maddon's attention. After watching a few more, the Cubs manager determined that it made no sense to push Hendricks even one batter further.
"My message to him was, 'OK, even if you could finish this inning, more than likely you're going to go in, sit down, and it's going to swell up, you got to get ice on it, you're probably not going out the next inning anyhow,'" Maddon said. "So why mess with it right now? Why make him throw more pitches? He knew he wasn't right."
When he separated the emotion from the physical, Hendricks couldn't argue.
"I just knew the feeling in my fastball just wasn't there," Hendricks said. "I was cutting my sinker, couldn't feel where it was going. So after the last one I pitched, I knew it wasn't going to work out."
With that, the game was turned over to Travis Wood, the first of five Cubs relievers to make a scoreless appearance.
"It was definitely disappointing in a way," Hendricks said of the abbreviated appearance. "But you can't look at it like that. The situation happened like it did. I had to come out. And that's what we have done all year is relied on everyone on this team."
Though Saturday's start was his shortest since July 7, Hendricks had enough time to help the Cubs build their early lead. He tied his season RBI total with a two-run single to highlight the Cubs' three-run second inning. It had been eight years since a pitcher last tallied multiple RBIs in a postseason game and 13 years since it had been done by a Cub.
"I was just trying to get a pitch somewhere middle of the plate and put a good swing on it," Hendricks said off his bases-loaded hit off Jeff Samardzija. "Flared one out there and it happened to fall in. Pretty lucky, but we'll take it."
Hendricks gave the two runs back the following inning but rebounded to retire five straight before Pagan knocked him out. Hendricks threw 52 pitches, 34 of which were strikes.