By Kevin Powell
WASHINGTON — Joe Maddon was right. He was right when he gave Kyle Hendricks the nod for Game 1. And he was right when he said this on Wednesday, just moments after announcing the righty as his starter: “Right now I anticipate him pitching well into this game on Friday night. I think he’s there. I think he’s there emotionally, physically, and mentally.”
Hendricks was absolutely outstanding in the Cubs, 3-0, victory Friday night. He surrendered just two hits to one of the best offenses in baseball over seven innings. Many Cubs fans have been calling for a looser leash on the 27-year-old, and they got just that in the opener.
“This is as good as I’ve seen him,” Maddon said after their win at Nationals Park. “Why? Because the velocity is ticking up. He’s actually hitting a lot – I don’t know how accurate their gun is, I don’t know it’s a little bit hot or not; sometimes I wonder, but if the gun is accurate, he hit as high as 91. He probably pitched pitched at 87 or 88 which is good, but he touches 90, 91.”
So how does Hendricks explain the added velocity?
“I think probably a little adrenaline-based,” Hendricks said. “But my last five, six starts, it’s been creeping up every start.”
Anthony Rizzo added: “It was fun to play behind him tonight.”
It was a huge win for the Cubs, and a devastating loss for the Nationals. They got a great outing from Stephen Strasburg and still found a way to lose – obviously, not an ideal start for a team that’s never won a postseason series. For the Cubs, they once again looked calm, cool and collected in the biggest of stages.
This is what the Cubs do now – capitalize in big games. It’s a fresh October, but it looks like the same old Cubs.
NEWS and NOTES
- You can’t overlook Stephen Strasburg’s performance. He was outstanding, and if not for an Anthony Rendon error, who knows how Game 1 turns out. “First two at-bats, he made me look silly,” Rizzo said. Strasburg set a Nationals postseason record with ten strikeouts.
- Tonight’s 3-0 win was the 13th Postseason shutout in franchise history for the Cubs
- Saturday’s matchup pins Jon lester against Gio Gonzalez. Dusty Baker announced Max Scherzer will start Monday at Wrigley. That game will be at 3:08 P.M. unless both ALDS series are sweeps. Then it’s a 4:38 P.M. first pitch. Either way, it’s good news for Bears fans. They’ll get playoff baseball leading into Trubisky’s debut.
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720