January 30, 2023

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Fergie's warning can't help Hendricks limit HRs

3 min read
Cubs allow 7 home runs to the D-backs in windy 11-dinger affair

CHICAGO — On Fergie Jenkins Day, the longtime great Cubs pitcher warned Chicago’s players of the hefty wind blowing out on Friday. And that played a big factor in Kyle Hendricks’ worst start of the season, statistically speaking.

“It’s frustrating, especially after dropping two, you try to stop that skid there and get back on the winning side of things,” Hendricks said.

Jenkins, whose statue was unveiled outside the stadium pregame, knows a thing or two about playing here and battling this wind.

“I wish the wind would stop,” the Hall of Famer said before the game. “The wind’s blowing out to right field. Watch out, boys. Really. I pitched many a day, coming up Addison [Street] and turning onto the ballpark and going, ‘Oh, the wind’s blowing out again today.’”

And as it turned out, there were 11 combined homers blasted in this game — tied for the record in a game at Wrigley Field. This was the fifth time in history this has happened and the first instance since June 18, 2006.

The wind blowing out was bad news for Hendricks, who gave up a season-high eight hits, seven runs and four home runs over five innings.

“You approach it the same,” Hendricks said of the conditions. “You take the same approach, just try to make good pitches. I felt pretty good. They put some good swings on a couple of pitches I missed, and that was really it.”

Those four home runs allowed tied his career high. The only other time it’s happened in his nine-year career was April 18, 2021, against the Braves.

“He just didn’t look like he was as sharp as I probably would have liked to see,” manager David Ross said.

Before Hendricks’ outing on Friday, the right-hander was coming off two solid performances. He tossed 8 2/3 scoreless innings against the Padres on May 9 at Petco Park, and he allowed only one earned run to Arizona on May 14. Over those starts, the “Professor” pitched a combined 14 innings, giving up just eight hits, one run and two walks with nine strikeouts.

But he couldn’t continue that success against the D-backs in his second start against them in just six days.

“It can be [tough] sometimes,” Hendricks said of facing a team twice in short measure. “It comes down to simplifying and making good pitches. You can use that to your advantage, depending on what you did in the last game. It’s just sequencing things a little different.”

Hendricks’ tough start also ended a run of quality starts from the Cubs’ starting rotation. Dating back to May 14, Chicago starters allowed just seven earned runs over 33 innings (1.91 ERA). The right-hander matched that run total in just one start.

“I just have to make better pitches overall,” Hendricks said. “We just have to get back to the fundamentals of attacking.”

Hendricks’ production comes from his top two pitches thrown — the sinker (31%) and the changeup (30%). He also utilizes the fastball on 27% of his pitches thrown; batters are hitting .149 on the season off his four-seamer.

But he relied on his fastball more than usual against Arizona on Friday. Hendricks threw 49 four-seam fastballs — a career high — which proved to be trouble. Five hits and three homers allowed were all via the four-seam fastball. The biggest factor in those pitches leading to five D-backs runs: location.

“I missed up, and those are the ones they put good swings on,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks shied away from his offspeed stuff early on. After allowing a leadoff infield single by Daulton Varsho that was grounded inches from home plate, the right-hander did not mix in offspeed pitches — especially his curveball.

“He just didn’t have a good feel for his secondary [pitches] or didn’t throw enough,” Ross said. “A lot of fastballs just off. I probably would have liked to see him use a curveball a little bit more early on in that first inning.”

This start from Hendricks wasn’t how he had planned it to go on Fergie Jenkins Day, but he plans to forget about it and move past it.

“We just have to get back to it tomorrow and attack,” the right-hander said.

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