Hendricks' streak remains, but Cubs fall in 10

July 22nd, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- Dylan Carlson put his hands on his head in disbelief. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt emerged from the home dugout at Busch Stadium to argue the call, a move that ended with some shouting and his ejection.

Amid all the noise, Cubs starter strode calmly off the mound, following a called third strike to Carlson to escape a fifth-inning jam on Wednesday night. Steadiness has been Hendricks' calling card, and that held true again in a 3-2 loss, in which he extended his unbeaten streak, but the Cardinals won in 10 innings on a Yadier Molina walk-off single.

"I can picture him," Cubs manager David Ross said of Hendricks. "Bases loaded in a playoff atmosphere in Wrigley Field. And getting a punchout and walking off like he just woke up from a nap, you know? It's who he is at all times.

"I personally admire and am a little bit jealous. I'm an emotional guy, and I ride the wave hard sometimes."

Right now, there is plenty of noise around the Cubs, who sit 8 1/2 games behind the division-leading Brewers. With the July 30 Trade Deadline looming, speculation is rampant about how the Cubs will proceed with their core stars. In a month's time, Chicago has gone from looking like a potential Deadline buyer to now keeping an eye firmly fixed on the future.

And there was more noise on Wednesday, when a baserunning blunder by Anthony Rizzo ran the Cubs out of a potential go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. The first baseman (the automatic runner to begin the inning) was thrown out between third and home on the back end of a long, double-play rundown.

“I froze,” Rizzo said. “I messed up. It's a bad feeling.”

And while the Cubs headed into Wednesday with 21 losses in their past 30 games, Hendricks has hardly flinched as a source of consistency. In fact, the veteran right-hander has not lost since May 9 against the Pirates. A game-tying rally in the ninth by the Cubs took him off the hook for a hard-luck loss.

Hendricks' 13-start unbeaten streak was in jeopardy in St. Louis, as Ross tried to squeeze a couple more outs out of his most reliable starter.

In the seventh, catcher Willson Contreras made a throwing error after picking up a dribbler off the bat of Paul DeJong, who raced to second on the play. Two batters later, Harrison Bader pulled the game into a 1-1 deadlock with his third hit of the night off Hendricks -- an RBI double that split the gap in left-center.

After that game-tying hit, Hendricks gave a quick punch inside his glove.

“I did make some bad pitches, especially to Bader,” Hendricks said. “That last one, it just can't happen, making that bad pitch there. Overall, it's been pretty good. It's been OK. But, yeah, there's more in there.”

From there, Ross turned things over to lefty Andrew Chafin, who carried a 24-inning scoreless streak into the game. Carlson delivered a two-out, go-ahead double off the reliever to put the finishing touches on Hendricks' line.

A game-tying rally by the Cubs in the ninth -- Eric Sogard came through with a pinch-hit, RBI double -- allowed Hendricks to walk away with a no-decision for his effort.

Over 6 1/3 innings, Hendricks walked none, struck out three and allowed just the two runs opposite Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright. Hendricks has turned in a 2.50 ERA over his past 13 starts, going 10-0 in that span, which includes at least six innings in every outing.

“Kyle was great,” Ross said. “I thought he threw phenomenal. Another great performance for him. He's been as steady and as good as anybody.”

Ross noted that he had a long conversation with Hendricks on Tuesday. The manager wanted to check in with the pitcher, who is so trustworthy and routine-oriented that Ross can focus his daily attention elsewhere.

"He still feels like there's more in the tank for him," Ross said. "I told him, well, I'm pretty thankful for what he gives on every fifth day. But I love that, right? I love that mentality."

Ross added that he appreciates how the 31-year-old Hendricks not only continues to grow into a leader through example, but also in mentoring the team's younger arms. The manager believes Hendricks’ stoic nature can be “infectious” behind the scenes, even as distractions increase around the team.

There are plenty of those right now for the Cubs.

"Kyle is definitely a leader in every sense of the word," Ross said. "His personality, I think, is just a benefit in so many ways in baseball, because of the ups and downs of a season -- the different things that come with a baseball season, the highs and lows.

“He's the same guy in the clubhouse. Same guy in the dugout. He's happy. He works hard. He's prepared. But he's also just a steady personality."