Hendriks a bright spot out of 'pen in Game 4
Works 4 1/3 innings, saves Osuna and Sanchez
TORONTO -- Considering the circumstances, Liam Hendriks' performance in relief of Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series would be easy to overlook.
The right-hander pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings to give the Blue Jays a fighting chance against the Royals on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. And though Toronto ended up on the wrong side of an ugly 14-2 outcome, Hendriks' noble work in long relief after going down 5-0 went a long way toward saving key bullpen arms as the team attempts to stave off elimination in Game 5 on Wednesday (3 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time slated for 4 p.m.).
"He saved what could've gotten nightmarish for us really quickly," said Dickey, who was lifted in the second inning after allowing two singles, two homers and five runs (four earned). "He did an incredible job. That's probably the one bright spot for us today."
After allowing three earned runs over two-thirds of an inning in the Blue Jays' win in Game 3, Hendriks delivered a near-flawless performance Tuesday, surrendering only one before exiting the game when Toronto took the field for the seventh inning.
That helped Blue Jays manager John Gibbons avoid using closer Osuna and setup man Sanchez, whom the team will likely lean on in a tight spot should one occur late in Game 5.
"I don't think you'd probably see him tomorrow," Gibbons said of Hendriks. "He did some kind of job, really. It really kept the game close, gave us a shot. When it was time to come out, though, it got away."
Hendriks, a Australian native, is in his second tour of duty with the Blue Jays, having been sent to the Royals in a deal for Danny Valencia at the Trade Deadline in 2014 before returning in an October trade for Minor League catcher Santiago Nessy. After a strong Spring Training, Hendriks broke camp with the team, but this time in the bullpen.
After toiling in the big leagues for parts of four seasons as a starting pitcher, posting a 3-14 record with a 5.94 ERA in 35 starts, Hendriks finished 2014 as a reliever with the Kansas City and began 2015 in Toronto's bullpen. It was a big change for the 26-year-old, who started his whole career, and registered a strong 2.89 ERA in 119 Minor League starts.
Coincidentally, it was a pair of Royals relievers who had once been starters -- Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar -- that helped him make the transition.
"Any time you're around a guy that had gone through it definitely makes it easier," he said. "You can talk to those guys, see what they did, see what their mentality was."
As a full-time reliever, Hendriks has flourished, posting a 2.92 ERA in 60 games in the regular season.
"I like the bullpen. I like the mentality of it," he said. "It's laid back but at the same time it's nitty-gritty, you do what you need to do to get it to the next guy."