Cubs’ Hendricks seeking breakthrough vs. D-backs

Field Level Media

April 18, 2019 at 9:13 pm.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will look for his first win of the season and try to continue Chicago’s hot streak on the mound when the Cubs open a three-game series against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday afternoon.

Chicago, which was off Thursday, has won seven of its past 10 games and is coming off a three-game road sweep of the Miami Marlins. The Cubs posted shutouts in the final two games of the set and have pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings.

Hendricks (0-3, 5.40 ERA) has completed five innings only once in his three starts this season, that coming in his last outing when he took the loss in a 6-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday. He allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in five innings.

He pitched a combined 8 1/3 innings — yielding 18 hits and 11 runs — in his first two starts.

“You can’t bang your head doing the same thing,” Hendricks told the Chicago Tribune. “We’re not trying to move mountains but making small adjustments. …

“In my side (sessions), it’s gotten a lot better, and I was better in my last one than the one before. So just trying to build on top of that, and I’m looking forward to another opportunity on Friday.”

Hendricks faces an Arizona team also coming off a three-game sweep, as the Diamondbacks completed that accomplishment with a 4-1 win Thursday afternoon at the Atlanta Braves. Arizona has won four consecutive games overall to climb above .500 at 10-9.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said of the good start to a 10-game road trip. “It’s onward to Chicago.”

Christian Walker hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning Thursday for a 3-0 lead after striking out three times. It was his team-best sixth home run of the season, one fewer than the man he is replacing at first base, All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, who was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He makes adjustments, pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat,” Lovullo said of the 28-year-old Walker, getting the first steady playing time of his career. “I knew he wasn’t feeling great after stranding some runners out there, but he applied some information and took advantage of it.

“Christian is in a very good spot right now.”

The Diamondbacks have 29 home runs in 19 games and were fourth in the majors in slugging heading into Thursday’s game.

Hendricks is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in four career starts against Arizona, allowing 17 hits in 25 1/3 innings, while striking out 25 and walking six.

He will be opposed by 30-year-old rookie righty Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.79 ERA). Kelly has struck out 17 and walked three in 19 innings.

Kelly will have to be wary of Cubs infielder Javier Baez, who went 8-for-13 with two home runs in the three games against the Marlins, showing the form that helped propel him to a second-place finish in last season’s National League MVP race.

“He’s just on a very similar look or pace that he had last year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

— Field Level Media