The Cubs opened up a three game series in Arizona against the Diamondbacks on Friday night, turning to Kyle Hendricks to keep the pristine pitching parade going. Hendricks was not up to the task, unfortunately, despite coming off of his best start of the year against these same Dbacks a week ago at Wrigley Field. His fairly well-documented first inning woes continued on Friday night, as he gave up three in the first to go along with four other runs in five innings, with the Cubs ultimately dropping this one by a score of 8-3.
Last week, Hendricks yielded merely three hits and zero runs to go along with 11 strikeouts in seven innings; tonight, the soft-tossing right-hander gave up four hits in just the first inning, and was not able to limit the run damage in that inning or any others, giving up an unsightly seven runs in five innings. While the Cubs’ starters have been on an impressive run of dominance of late, Hendricks was unable to stem the tide after giving up the early runs, even after Kris Bryant and Javier Báez took separate turns bringing the Cubs back to within one run early in the game.
The Diamondbacks started things up right away in the first inning off Hendricks, as Ketel Marte singled to start the bottom half. After an Ildemaro Vargas lineout, David Peralta singled to right, followed by an Adam Jones single to left that scored Marte. Just when it looked like Hendricks might get out of the jam after he got a scorching hot Christian Walker to pop up, weak-hitting Wilmer Flores hit a ground ball just under an outstretched Ben Zobrist glove to right field and the Dbacks were staked to a 3-0 lead. Nothing was hit overly hard against Hendricks, but the Cubs were down three runs right out of the chute.
The Cubs were able to claw back into the game in the third inning when Albert Almora muscled one to left field for a single to start a two-out rally; Kris Bryant then took care of bringing him all the way in to score when he teed off on a Robbie Ray offering to left-center that went 444 feet to bring the score back to a one run deficit at 3-2.
Painfully, Hendricks gave one of the runs right back in the home team’s half of the inning on back-to-back doubles by Vargas and Peralta that made the score 4-2.
Javy Báez did what he’s been doing for the last year and a half in the top of the fourth inning, unloading on a ball to left to lead off the inning, sending it 446 feet into the desert night to bring the Cubs back as close as they’d get the rest of the night at 4-3. Not only would the Cubs not get any closer the rest of the night, but they’d also fail to score the rest of the game as the Dbacks decided to keep pouring it on via another couple hits for Jones, another for Flores, as well as a Nick Ahmed triple en route to an 8-3 win.
The Cubs did mount an intriguing comeback bid in the top of the ninth inning with two outs, after a Kyle Schwarber single and Jason Heyward walk, but Albert Almora struck out looking after being up 3-0 in the count to end any hope of real drama.
Why the Cubs Lost
Kyle Hendricks didn’t exactly get shelled, but the three runs he gave up in the first inning put the Cubs in a hole that they couldn’t quite dig themselves out of. While they did manage three runs on the two bombs, they didn’t really put a ton of pressure on Diamondbacks’ southpaw starter Robbie Ray.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Wilmer Flores hit a ground ball the other way just under the glove of a diving Ben Zobrist, and the ball trickled into right field to plate two runs for the Diamondbacks. The ball was hit only 83 mph, but Zobrist just couldn’t quite get there, and the Diamondbacks never looked back. If Zobrist comes up with that ball and Hendricks can limit the damage to one run in the first, maybe things work out differently.
Stats that Matter
- Almora went 4-5 in the game, building on his first home run of the year on Thursday off Kenley Jansen.
- Báez continued his offensive onslaught, going 2-4 on the night and adding his 9th home run of the season.
- Recently recalled, high-ceiling reliever Dillon Maples had a very Maples-esque inning of work, tallying 2 walks and 3 strikeouts to stuff the statsheet and walk the tightrope in the sixth inning. His stuff has never been questioned, and if he could just lay off the walks…
- Friday night was the first time since the April 10th loss to the Pirates where a Cubs’ starter gave up more than 3 earned runs in an outing. 12 straight games of dominant starting pitching usually turns out well — the Cubs were 9-3 during that span.
It’s tough to play on Thursday, get on a plane to Arizona and deal with a game on Friday night that seems like it’s being played at midnight. While you never want to make excuses, the Cubs have struggled in Arizona and you kinda expect a rough opening night to the road trip. Hopefully, this is just a blip on the radar and the starting pitching and rest of the offense can get back on the horse tomorrow night as Yu Darvish takes the bump.
The Cubs continue their weekend set with the Diamondbacks on Saturday night at 7:10 pm CT. Darvish goes for the Cubs as the big righty, Zack Godley, who has struggled so far in 2019, gets the nod for the Dbacks. ABC-7 has the TV broadcast and the Cubs are on 670 The Score via radio waves.