After issuing his first walk of the game to start the ninth inning with a two-run lead, Kyle Hendricks received some peculiar words from manager Joe Maddon as he was about to be pulled.
“When I took him out, I told him ‘Way to swing the bat,’ ” the Cubs manager said Tuesday night after Hendricks collected a career-high three hits, including a two-run double in the second inning of a 3-1 win over the Reds.
“His exit velocities were well above any starting pitchers for the last 10 years.”
Maddon’s humor reflected the comfort expressed by the Cubs after Hendricks completed his latest May mastery. After pitching at least eight innings for the third consecutive start, Hendricks has allowed only one earned run — a home run by Joey Votto in the fourth — in 25 innings this month.
The ninth-inning walk to Nick Senzel snapped Hendricks’ streak of 19 innings without a free pass.
“He’s tension-free,” Maddon said. “That’s how he plays the games. It’s a wonderful method he employs. He probably causes other scouting departments to look differently at pitchers who throw like him. You’re always looking for that next Kyle Hendricks who does not have to break the radar gun to be signed.
“The big thing for guys like that is go get signed, then go out and have an opportunity and get guys out. He’s broken the mold. He’s definitely a throwback. You saw that back in the day. Don’t see it often. You see the bad takes and bad swings.”
Hendricks’ 0.36 ERA in May is a fraction of his 5.33 ERA in April, when he was critical of his failure to pitch with conviction.