Kyle Hendricks, decorated postseason hero, does it again. As Pat Hughes describes him, the “likable pitcher” threw seven shutout innings against one of the game’s premier offenses. He frustrated Washington all night with the best stuff that he’s exhibited this year.
The Cubs ace’s 106 pitches consisted of his trademark sinker/four-seam/changeup combination. Velocity returned to his repertoire as well, with his 88-89 mph heater flashing faster than during any outing all season.
“I think probably [the velocity] was a little adrenaline-based,” Hendricks said after the start. “My last five, six starts, it’s been creeping up every start. My mechanics have really been clicking so my timing is there, where earlier in the year, my mechanics were off so I wasn’t able to let it go.”
In addition to the obvious direct benefits, that fastball speed might’ve increased the effectiveness of Hendricks’ changeup. Nationals batters whiffed against the pitch six times in 23 chances, good for a 26.1 percent swinging-strike rate. That high a rate for a changeup is among the best in MLB on a per-game.
The most encouraging aspect of Hendricks’ spectacular start is that he didn’t fade. Joe Maddon had no reason to take his starter out because the Game 1 winner displaying strong velocity even when surpassing 100 pitches. For instance, his 96th pitch was clocked at almost 90 mph, and his very last pitch was a touch over 88 mph.
But, wow, the command. Describing Hendricks’ ability to pinpoint his pitches as “sharp” would be an understatement. Let’s have Willson Contreras take a shot at explaining it…
Willson Contreras on Kyle Hendricks: “He didn’t miss a spot. He didn’t miss a pitch. We did everything that we wanted to.”
— Patrick Mooney (@MooneyNBCS) October 7, 2017
Look at how well the righty spotted his pitches below. A large chunk of pitches thrown to Washington batters populate the lower-right portion of the zone. Pitches high over the strike zone were intentional four-seam fastballs thrown early in the count. Essentially, Hendricks located his pitches like a professional darts thrower.
This is the Kyle Hendricks we’ve grown to know and admire. No other start in 2017 was as beautiful as his Game 1 performance. Marvel at and relish in the work of art Hendricks painted in Washington.