Kyle Hendricks stymies Brewers as Cubs begin 2020 on the right foot
Summer break is over; The Professor wants to get back to work.
Class was in session Friday night at Wrigley Field as Kyle Hendricks absolutely stymied the Brewers offense in a 3-0 Cubs win.
Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo hit homers, but Hendricks was the big story in the season opener. The veteran pitcher struck out 9 in a complete game shutout, needing only 103 pitches to dispatch the Cubs’ division rivals.
Shortstop Orlando Arcia was the only Brewers player to reach base against Hendricks, collecting a single each of his 3 times to plate.
By some measures, it was the best Opening Day pitching performance Major League Baseball has seen since 1888:
Tonight Kyle Hendricks of the @Cubs became the first pitcher to throw a CG shutout with 9+ strikeouts, 0 walks and 3 or fewer hits allowed on Opening Day since Ledell Titcomb did so for the New York Giants on April 20, 1888.#WhereStoriesPlay— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) July 25, 2020
With 2 outs in the 9th, manager David Ross came out to chat with Hendricks on the mound to let the Cubs ace know it would be his final hitter.
One pitch later, the game was over and the Cubs were 1-0 to start the young season.
“I just cannot say enough about him,” Rizzo said. “He’s just done nothing but worked and pitched his tail off for this organization. Just so excited for him and the statement that that puts for our team early, our message with Rossy coming out there in the 9th and letting him finish it. Just a great win for us and kind of cherry on top with letting Kyle go the distance.”
Hendricks earned the Opening Day start with a strong summer camp after staying stretched out throughout the shutdown. In the days leading up to Friday’s game, he said he was ready to go physically with whatever manager David Ross asked of him, but also cautioned not to expect anything crazy.
All things considered, a complete game in the shortened season opener is pretty crazy.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Hendricks said. “We’ve just been doing a good job with everybody here, going pitch to pitch, working on what I needed to work on. I went in with a great plan and [Willson Contreras], it felt like second nature — we were just locked in again from pitch 1.
“So we had a great plan and executed it. But again, it’s just one. It’s a really good way to start for all of us, set a good tone, but now we just gotta keep it rolling.”
It was the first shutout for the Cubs on Opening Day since Bill Bonham turned the trick in 1974.
Hendricks induced 12 groundouts in addition to the 9 punchouts, so the ball barely left the infield all night.
“Playing the game behind Kyle was pretty easy,” Happ said. “I didn’t do much. I think I caught one ball, threw one in. I basically could’ve sat down out there, so that’s a lot of fun for me.”
Happ put the Cubs in front for good with a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 3rd inning and Rizzo added some insurance in the 8th.
In a shortened season where every game carries more weight, the Cubs absolutely wanted to get out to a good start to the 2020 campaign. Hendricks’ performance certainly gave them that early boost and he was stoked to help Ross win his first game as manager.
“That’s what means the most to me, honestly,” Hendricks said. “I love that guy and we just love playing for him. We’ve been waiting for this moment. We were excited in spring, before this all started — just the vibe and the energy he brings every day.
“I told him I was gonna go out there and give him his first win.”