By Steven S. Garcia
Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- As a calm, cool, emotionless Kyle Hendricks took the mound for his warmup tosses before Sunday night’s contest with the Cardinals (31-31), there was an electric atmosphere flowing through Wrigley Field.
In front of a crowd of 39,545 fans, the Cubs (36-27) were looking for the second three-game sweep of their division rivals this season. Through eight games between the two ballclubs this season, the home team has won every game of the series with Cubs having swept the first series from May 3-5 and the Cards sweeping the series at Busch Stadium last weekend.
Hendricks pitched the series opener against St. Louis last month, going the distance in an 81-pitch, complete-game shutout in a Cubs’ 4-0 victory. After a slow start which saw the right-hander go 1-4 with a 5.33 ERA in April, Hendricks has been almost flawless since the start of May.
Prior to Sunday’s game, The Professor has gone 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA in his last seven starts. In addition to that, he has posted a quality start in six of those appearances.
Despite having a little bit of trouble locating his fastball early in the game, the only damage by the Cards was a Kolten Wong RBI-double in the 2nd inning to tie the game at 1-1.
Hendricks credited catcher Willson Conteras with his performance after the game by saying, “Today, I wasn’t super sharp, especially early. My fastball command, I was pulling heaters, but Willson was locked in. His pitch selection was really good. He kept me into it and got me mentally into it by the fifth inning. He could feel what the hitters were doing better than I could today.”
The Cubs’ bats lifted the team the rest of the way with an RBI-single by David Bote and an RBI-double by Kyle Schwarber in the 5th. Then in the 7th, Kyle Schwarber struck again with an RBI-single to drive in Albert Almora Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez hit one into the basket for an opposite-field home run in the 8th – his first as a Cub – to give the Northsiders their fifth and final run.
Relievers Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., and Pedro Strop came into finish the game and complete the three-game sweep of the Cardinals.
Hendricks earns his 7th win of the season going seven innings and allowing one run on 8 hits, punching out 3 and walking none.
The victory puts the Cubs ten games over .500 for the first time since May 25th and the team remains in a 1st place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers.