CHICAGO — When rain washed away Monday’s game against the Dodgers, there was a chance the Cubs’ offensive momentum could have stalled, too. Extra time off, plus a date with Clayton Kershaw in the opener of a doubleheader, did not seem like an ideal combination.
Any such concerns were soon eradicated.
Chicago was swift in its dismantling of Kershaw, chasing the veteran ace after one inning en route to a 7-1 victory in Game 1 of Tuesday’s twin bill at Wrigley Field. That outpouring helped back a strong bounceback performance by starter Kyle Hendricks, who worked all seven frames in the win.
“Having that extra day, sometimes you don’t know how you’re going to feel coming out,” Cubs center fielder Jake Marisnick said. “But we were able to keep that momentum rolling and get to Kershaw early there. The rest was history.”
No, the Cubs did not win Sunday in Cincinnati, but they put up a dozen runs in a wild game and hoped to carry over that feeling into this series with Los Angeles. The North Siders did just that.
With one out in the opening frame, the feast-or-famine Cubs offense filled up their plates against Kershaw. When the smoke cleared on Chicago’s four-run opening frame, Kershaw had logged his most career pitches in a first inning (39) and walked off the hill with his shortest career start.
“To go out and do that off him early was huge, obviously,” Hendricks said. “The kind of pitcher, the caliber he is — a future Hall of Famer. Just putting consistent at-bats out there, swinging at good pitches, taking the walks, it was fun to watch. They were perfect out there.”
Kris Bryant got things rolling with a one-out double, giving him a Major League-leading 11 two-base hits and 20 extra-base hits at the time of his knock. Anthony Rizzo brought Bryant in with an RBI single, which came via a Kershaw curve that the Cubs first baseman ripped up the first-base line and into right.
From there, Javier Báez drew a walk — only his second of the season, and against a pitcher with an average of 1.2 per nine innings this year — and the Cubs went on to load the bases. That set things up for David Bote, who drilled an elevated four-seamer 109 mph off the bat, and off the bricks and ivy in left-center, for a three-run double.
“I thought it was just being ready to attack when you see strikes,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I think it was just commanding the strike zone, taking our walks, seeing something in the spots where we want to attack and letting it rip. I thought we did a really good job of that.”
Kershaw ended with two walks after issuing just five in his previous six turns for the Dodgers. The Cubs also made this just the second time in Kershaw’s career that the lefty yielded at least four runs in a first inning. The only other occurrence came against the Nationals on Aug. 28, 2008, during Kershaw’s rookie season.
The early four-run margin created a nice cushion for Hendricks, who entered the game having allowed seven runs in two of his past three outings (both against Atlanta). For good measure, Chicago’s offense kept piling on the support. Two runs scored on a wild pitch in the third (with the help of a Dodgers error) and Marisnick belted a solo homer in the sixth.
Hendricks said he was “searching” for answers after his last start, and the righty seemingly found some given his showing against L.A.
“I did a much better job, just intent-wise, going pitch to pitch,” said Hendricks, who credited catcher Willson Contreras for his in-game feedback. “Willy had me locked in on that.”
Hendricks looked like himself again, sidestepping the potential harm of the seven baserunners he encountered in the first six innings. The righty ended with six strikeouts and one walk — his lone blemish a solo homer to Keibert Ruiz in the seventh — in the kind of performance the Cubs have come to expect over the years from their rotation leader.
All that early offense helped Hendricks stay aggressive on the mound.
“The boys going out and putting up four runs early was huge to help me do that,” Hendricks said. “It gave me confidence to go attack, which I’ve been trying to do better — first-pitch strikes, attacking the strike zone.”