Anthony Rizzo and rookie phenom Kris Bryant are at the center of the Chicago Cubs’ revival, but Kyle Hendricks is starting to make some contributions on the mound.
With his confidence building, Hendricks seeks another impressive start as the Cubs face the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night.
Chicago (27-22) last posted this many wins at this point in a season when it was 29-20 in 2008, on its way to its most recent NL Central crown.
Rizzo and Bryant have been vital to the resurgence. Rizzo leads the team with a .316 average and nine homers, while his 30 RBIs are only behind Bryant’s 33.
The duo each had an RBI double to back Jason Hammel’s excellent start in a 5-1 win at Miami (20-32) on Monday.
While Rizzo and Bryant are expected to be cornerstones for a bright future, Hendricks (1-1, 3.76 ERA) is emerging as a solid starter.
After compiling a 5.15 ERA through his first seven stats, Hendricks tossed a five-hitter in a 3-0 win at San Diego on May 21, and followed that up by yielding one run and four hits in seven innings in a 3-2 victory over Washington last Tuesday.
"(Pitching coach Chris Bosio) and I sat down and said, ‘Look we need to simplify everything,’" Hendricks told MLB’s official website. "We were trying different things mechanically to figure out what was going on because I didn’t have command of anything. It didn’t look terrible and I was still getting some outs, but for me, personally, I just knew I didn’t know where it was going."
Increased confidence is also making a difference for the second-year right-hander.
"That was the big thing about his shutout game in San Diego, it built up his confidence," catcher Miguel Montero told MLB’s official website. "He knows it’s there. … He feels confident, he feels good, he feels sexy, and it makes it a little bit easier."
Hendricks has pitched 14 1-3 scoreless innings on the road, and will be facing a Marlins team that’s lost 10 of 12 at home while averaging 2.6 runs and batting .228.
Miami is hitting .155 with runners in scoring position over that stretch after going 0 for 5 on Monday.
Giancarlo Stanton has a .174 average with 14 strikeouts in those games. However, he’s hitting .340 with six homers and 12 RBIs in his past 13 at home against Chicago.
The Marlins are turning to Brad Hand (0-1, 4.50), whose 4-18 record in 32 career starts is the worst of any active pitcher with at least 20 decisions.
Hand has been added to a battered rotation currently without Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery), Henderson Alvarez (shoulder), Jarred Cosart (vertigo) and Mat Latos (knee).
The left-hander was impressive in his first start of 2015, tossing five scoreless innings before the bullpen surrendered five runs in the seventh of a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
"You’ve got to tip your hat to Brad Hand," manager Dan Jennings said. "He did a heck of a job for us in a situation where we needed it and gave us a quality outing."
Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is expected to return to the lineup after missing the past three games with a bruised left shoulder. He’s a lifetime .342 hitter against the Cubs.