Riding high after a sweep of the Marlins in Miami, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon handed the ball to Kyle Hendricks on a cold, windy Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Hendricks went seven shutout innings, striking out 11 and keeping Diamondbacks hitters off balance all day long. The Cubs hitters did their job as well, registering eight hits and nine walks en route to a 5-1 win in the series opener.
Things got interesting in the 2nd inning, as Jason Heyward started the proceedings with a swinging bunt, followed by a single up the middle by David Bote and a frozen rope to right by Kyle Schwarber. With the bases loaded, Hendricks tried to put down a safety squeeze, but was foiled when D-backs pitcher Merrill Kelly shoveled the bunt home for a force at the plate to get Heyward for the first out.
After Daniel Descalso struck out for the second out of the inning, Kris Bryant stepped to the plate and popped one up into shallow center that everyone in the ballpark assumed was the third out. Fortunately for the Cubs, Nick Ahmed tripped trying to deal with the swirling winds while Bote and Schwarber crossed the plate with the only runs the Northsiders would need on the day.
The Cubs added to the lead in the bottom of the 4th inning when Descalso walked and was knocked in by Anthony Rizzo‘s triple to left field two batters later. Bryant led off the 6th with a ringing single to left field, went to second when Rizzo was hit by a pitch, then meandered to third when Javy Báez grounded into a fielder’s choice. Once on third, Bryant scored on a wild pitch that made the game 4-0. Willson Contreras then ripped one to center, singling in Báez (who had moved to third on the wild pitch that scored Bryant) to conclude the Cubs scoring on the day and put them up 5-0.
While the Cubs were busy taking care of business on offense, Hendricks was doing his thing and the Diamondbacks got little going against him in his seven innings of work. Steve Cishek followed with much of the same, throwing a scoreless 8th inning after Hendricks departed at 100 pitches.
Brad Brach was called on to dispatch the Diamondbacks in the final inning, but couldn’t keep the Cubs’ shutout streak alive, surrendering three hits and a run. Called on to extinguish the fire before it turned into an inferno, Pedro Strop got a quick groundout to third and then struck out Carson Kelly to end the game. (Box score)
When it looked like all hope of pushing any runs across in the 2nd inning was lost, the Wrigley winds came a-swirlin’, allowing Bryant’s would-be pop-up to shallow center a plush landing strip to touch down. Two runs scored, and that’s all the Cubs would need on the day.
Stats that Matter
- Hendricks — 7 innings, 11 strikeouts, 0 runs. I’d say he’s figured things out and righted his ship. Boy, is it nice to have him in complete mastery of his arsenal.
- Cubs pitchers continued their dominance and now have given up only 15 runs in their past 79 innings pitched. If that continues, it’ll be a fun season.
- Contreras continued his scorching hot start to the season, going 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. His season slash line now sits at .333/.469/.765.
- Bryant was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI on the infamous bloop. He also ripped one to start the 6th inning, so maybe he’s starting to come around a little. We can hope, right?
For all those fans and pundits who were unimpressed by victories against the Quad-A squad down in Miami, here you go. The Diamondbacks aren’t the second coming of Murderer’s Row, but they’ve got a lot more firepower than the Marlins and Hendricks made them look like little leaguers most of the day.
The Cubs continue their Easter weekend tilt with the Diamondbacks on Saturday afternoon at 1:20pm CT. Yu Darvish goes for the Cubs, hoping to build upon his progress in Miami. Zack Greinke will toe the rubber for the Diamondbacks. The game will be televised on ABC-7 or you can listen to Pat Hughes on 670 The Score.