Thu Sep 16 3:55am ET
Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks always seems to end his seasons on a high note.
He will try to maintain that reputation when he takes the mound against the host Philadelphia Phillies in the rubber game of the three-game series on Thursday evening.
Hendricks has been a late-season star ever since posting a 1.42 ERA in five postseason starts during Chicago's World Series-run in 2016. He has a 2.60 ERA in 36 career regular-season starts in September and October.
Hendricks (14-6, 4.54 ERA) allowed one run and four hits in six innings on Friday against the visiting San Francisco Giants, keeping the Cubs in the game against the best team in the majors until the bullpen fell apart in the 6-1 loss.
He wasn't able to put the Cubs on his back to the finish of that game, but his performance felt like a personal victory after he'd been roughed up in four of his previous five outings.
"I needed it mentally to see myself be able to do that," Hendricks said. "Just with the few (starts) I have left, try to keep that rolling."
He will face a Philadelphia team that's still in the thick of the playoff race. A win in the series finale would pull the Phillies (73-72) within 2 1/2 games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League wild-card spot. The Phillies also are just 3 1/2 games back of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves.
Philadelphia hurt its chances by losing six of seven, including three of four to the sub-.500 Colorado Rockies, before rebounding to beat Chicago 6-5 on a walk-off passed ball on Wednesday.
"We're still in this," Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi said.
The Phillies are planning to use a host of relievers on Thursday.
Philadelphia's bullpen blew two save chances in the win on Wednesday, increasing its franchise-record total to 32 this season and pulling within two blown saves of tying the major league record set by the Colorado Rockies in 2004.
Hendricks had his own uncharacteristically poor three-game stretch heading into the San Francisco game, getting tagged for 18 runs in 16 innings.
The Cubs (66-80) managed to win two of those games, but Hendricks wasn't accustomed to getting knocked around for such a lengthy period.
Hendricks was 13-4 with a 3.68 ERA through his first start in August and appeared set for another strong second half run. He slammed into his first speed bump on Aug. 12 against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, however, allowing nine runs and 11 hits in four innings of a 17-4 loss.
Hendricks seemed to straighten things out in his next start, giving up one run in six innings of a 2-1 road win against the Cincinnati Reds, but then hit the three-start slump that had everyone perplexed.
That's why his last outing was such a relief to many.
"It was good to see him back to being the way he normally is," said Cubs bench coach Andy Green, who was running the team last weekend while manager David Ross was out following a positive COVID-19 test. "It was good to see him be him."
Hendricks is 4-2 in six career starts against the Phillies with a 3.26 ERA. He also tossed one of six career complete games against Philadelphia in 2016.
--Field Level Media
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