As Kyle Hendricks prepares for a pivotal start tonight, weak contact is the basis of his success for the Chicago Cubs

The day earlier than Kyle Hendricks’ remaining regular-season begin, the Chicago Cubs’ veteran tried to recall the final time he took the mound for such a pivotal sport so late into the 162-game schedule.

Hendricks figures it got here in September 2019 when the Cubs tried to lock down a playoff spot, going from 14 video games over .500 and within the remaining wild-card place with two weeks to go to lacking the postseason because of a stretch of shedding 9 consecutive video games.

After a disastrous three-game sweep in Atlanta, the Cubs flip to Hendricks with their postseason hopes on life help Friday in Milwaukee, the place they shut out their regular-season slate.

“This is what you play for,” Hendricks advised the Tribune on Thursday. “You want to be winning and you’re in this game for one reason, and it’s to win. And so to have a group like this where you’re so close and to be able to win with them makes it even more special. To be in it now, we’re focused on the right here and right now.”

The Cubs are on the level of needing to comb the Brewers over the weekend as a result of they’re a half-game behind the Miami Marlins for the No. 3 wild-card spot and the Marlins maintain the tiebreaker.

“Big games he’s pitched in, his experience, so we’ll follow his lead,” Ian Happ stated after their 5-3 loss Thursday night time to get swept by the Braves.

Fortunately, the Cubs have seen a wholesome Hendricks revert to extra profession norms than the struggles he skilled in 2021 and 2022. Last season was a very robust take a look at attempting to pitch by means of a proper shoulder harm that ended his season in July.

This model of Hendricks, 33, is again to inducing floor balls at pre-2021 ranges, and it has contributed to his success. Through 23 begins, his 45.2% GB% is his highest over a full season since 2018 whereas doing a terrific job of limiting onerous contact. Hendricks’ 31.3% HardHit% is the bottom of his 10-year profession, an necessary basis to his 3.66 ERA and 122 ERA+.

“The ground-ball rate in general has to go back to my fastball command, the last couple years my fastball command was just elevated at the bottom of the zone about two balls higher for me than where I needed it to be so finally I’m getting back to angled, bottom of the zone,” Hendricks stated. “Being healthy again has a lot to do with it, getting extension out front. I get the ball down and now my changeup works off that and I get guys to start fishing under the zone and that’s where ground balls are going to happen.”

The improve of floor balls has not correlated to his typical double-play frequency. He owned a 12% profession DP% coming into the yr and had been averaging 11 per season. Oddly, Hendricks has generated just one floor ball double play in 132 2/3 innings and 557 batters confronted. That got here manner again on May 30 in his second begin and simply seven innings into his season.

“I would have never guessed that,” Hendricks stated, chuckling.

Hendricks believes the shortage of double performs is linked to the working sport and the way groups have been in a position to steal towards him. He has allowed 23 stolen bases in 23 begins with solely two caught stealing. Hendricks pointed to his early-season struggles in that space, placing it on himself for not giving catchers an affordable likelihood to throw out base stealers and even make it an in depth play. The limitations on throwing over, simply twice throughout plate appearances, take away a software Hendricks beforehand had used to alter the timing and tempo of a baserunner.

Over the course of the season, Hendricks has integrated a slide step to attempt to baserunners in test. Sometimes that strategy labored towards him when he put an excessive amount of consideration on the runner at first base reasonably than the man within the batter’s field. After his begin Aug. 9 at Citi Field, Hendricks and supervisor David Ross famous how paying an excessive amount of consideration to Francisco Lindor and utilizing a slide step in an effort to maintain him shut, affected his matchup with slugger Pete Alonso, which led to a tying two-run homer.

Veterans are studying always, too, and Hendricks realized he wanted to be higher at enjoying the scoreboard and understanding the place the Cubs had been inside a sport. Quickening his leg kick from 1.6 to 1.4 seconds additionally has helped.

“If I know I have a guy over there that’s going to be going but it’s a one-run game per se, maybe that’s when I utilize my slide step and really try and focus on trying to keep him there,” Hendricks stated. “If we have a lead up 4-0 or something like that, I need to focus on execution.”

Hendricks thinks he has gotten higher over the past two to a few weeks of controlling the run sport. It continues to be a focus for the right-hander.

“We’ve committed to the fact that depending on the runner, if it’s a speedster there, you just have to commit that he’s going to get to second probably and you’re going to have to make pitches with the guy on second base,” Hendricks stated. “So that’s been the main target is simply limiting the onerous contact, particularly with guys in scoring place there and doing as a lot as you may.

“It might be an anomaly because double plays have always been there … but yeah, that’s a very weird combo.”