A Tip of the Recap – 9/26 (Cubs 12, Pirates 2)

Cubs Record: 100-56 (1st in NL Central)

W: Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 1.99)

L: Chad Kuhl (5-4, 4.25)

MVP: Everyone

If you were hoping for a close game between division foes, I have some bad news for you.

The Cubs wasted little time getting on the scoreboard against Pirates starter Chad Kuhl. Chris Coghlan led off the game with a walk and moved to third on an Antony Rizzo double. A Willson Contreras walk loaded the bases for Jason Heyward, who hit a sacrifice fly to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead.

After a scoreless 2nd and 3rd, the Cubs broke through again in the top of the 4th. One at-bat after he just missed a home run down the left field line, Javy Baez came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. Baez fell behind in the count, 0-2, before hitting a frozen rope over the left field wall for a grand slam, making it 5-0.

A two-run home run from Kris Bryant in the 6th pushed the MVP candidate’s RBI total over 100 (101) and made it 7-0. A Pirates error followed by an Albert Almora Jr. double pushed it to 9-0 and a Baez single drove in two more runs, giving the Cubs a commanding 11-0 advantage. Another Pittsburgh error in the top of the 7th drove home the 12th run of the game for Chicago.

Hector Rondon came on to pitch the bottom of the 8th for the Cubs and Pittsburgh was finally able to put up a crooked number in the run category. Matt Joyce and David Freese greeted Rondon with back-to-back home runs to lead off the inning, but the Chicago setup man was able to right the ship and get out of the inning without further damage.

Aroldis Chapman worked a 1-2-3 9th to finish the game and give the Cubs win No. 100 this season.

The Good

As was the case last night regarding Jon Lester, these starts from Hendricks are almost becoming blasé. He may have given up a few more hits than we have been used to seeing of late, but that didn’t make Hendricks’ start any less impressive. Throughout his time on the mound, the Chicago right-hander was painting the zone to perfection, hitting the edges and inducing weak contact from Pittsburgh. His final line ended up looking very much like the others he has produced this season: 6 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 5 K.

Moving past this single start, Monday’s game marked the 10th straight in which Hendricks has gone at least 6 innings while allowing two runs or fewer. During this stretch, the righty has gone 7-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over 68 1/3 innings, allowing just 10 earned runs on 45 hits and 11 walks.

All that said, I don’t know if boiling down what Hendricks has done to a brief selection of games really does justice to his season. We all know ERA isn’t the end-all, be-all stat it was once believed to be, but it can be fun to look at and this is one of those times.  Here is his ERA by month this season:

April: 3.91

May: 2.23

June: 2.50

July: 1.07

August: 1.28

September: 1.38

Aside from his April (which really wasn’t bad), Hendricks has been remarkably consistent in 2016. Oh yeah, and his Major League-best ERA is now an incredible 1.99. His development really has been fun to watch.

The Bad

With all of the requisite caveats regarding him working the rust off following a DL stint, Rondon struggled in his outing on Monday. In his one inning of work, he allowed two runs on three hits while striking out two, marking his second straight rough appearance.

Since his return from the disabled list, Rondon has allowed 6 earned runs on 10 hits and a walk over 6 innings. While it isn’t necessarily something to be overly concerned with, it would be good for all involved to see him work a couple clean innings before the postseason begins.

The Ugly

Kuhl is probably happy he won’t have to face Chicago again this season.

In 10 starts against other teams, he has gone 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 55 1/3 innings. In his three starts against the Cubs, however, Kuhl is a not-so-cool (see what I did there) 0-2 with a 10.45 ERA and 2.32 WHIP over 10 1/3 innings. In technical terms, I think that is called not great.

Coming Attractions

The Cubs and Pirates will go back at it Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Chicago will send John Lackey (10-8, 3.39) to the mound, while Pittsburgh will go with veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (3-6, 4.85). First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. (CST).

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