Same as it ever was: Hendricks stymies Cardinals (again), propels Cubs in series opener

In 24 career starts against the Cardinals, Hendricks came into Friday with a lifetime record of 12-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 153.1 innings.
Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ, left, grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning as...
Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ, left, grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning as St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt handles the throw during a baseball game Friday, June 24, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 11:11 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It doesn’t seem to matter what year it is or what kind of year Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks is having. He’s still going to have the number of the St. Louis Cardinals lineup.

Hendricks entered his start on Friday night at Busch Stadium with a 2-6 record and a 5.43 ERA on the season. When facing St. Louis, though, you can pretty much throw the recent statistics out the window for Hendricks.

In 24 career starts against the Cardinals, Hendricks came into Friday with a lifetime record of 12-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 153.1 innings. In those starts, St. Louis had registered just 48 earned runs⁠—exactly two per game⁠—against him.

He made that average even smaller on Friday. Hendricks earned his third win of the season as the Cubs beat the Cardinals 3-0 to open the weekend series at Busch.

Chicago’s crafty right-hander logged 7.1 innings while allowing just five hits, one walk and a big ol’ goose egg in the run column. He also racked up six strikeouts, despite that the hardest pitch he threw all night was clocked by Statcast at 87.5 mph.

It’s not always glamorous, but Hendricks simply gets it done against St. Louis.

Though it probably seems to Cardinals fans like Hendricks has been around forever, he’s actually only 32 years old as he pitches in his ninth MLB season, his ninth with Chicago. If that number feels low, it’s likely due to the level of torment he has delivered upon the Cardinals over that time. The Cardinals’ manager feels it, too.

“I’m ready for him to retire,” Oliver Marmol said. “He does a nice job. Baffles the hell out of me every time. He knows what he’s doing. Controls counts, mixes well. Keeps guys off balance.”

Marmol summarized Hendricks’ hold over St. Louis accurately. Then he offered another sentence, just for fun.

“Tired of seeing his face,” Marmol deadpanned.

In fairness, you’d probably feel the same way about a pitcher who has seemingly lost a step in the past couple of years, yet he inexplicably continues to perform like an All-Star every time he faces your team. In 2021, Hendricks carried an ERA of 4.77, the worst mark of his career prior to this season. Yet in four games against the Cardinals last year, he tossed four quality starts, going 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA.

IT doesn’t happen that way against other NL Central rivals. His ERA against the Pirates last year? 6.66. Against the Brewers? 6.14. How does this keep happening to the Cardinals⁠—and seemingly only the Cardinals?

Marmol conceded that frustration tends to mount in the Cardinals dugout when Hendricks is carving up their lineup yet again.

“You can’t discredit someone who knows how to pitch,” Marmol said. “It doesn’t matter what their velo is. It’s the ability to play chess all game and know how to use his stuff effectively, and differently with each guy.”

The Cardinals had their best chance at a rally when they finally chased Hendricks from the game in the eighth inning. Dylan Carlson led off with a base hit before Harrison Bader narrowly missed a home run off the wall in left-center, setting up runners at second and third with nobody out. Hendricks caught pinch-hitter Lars Nootbaar fishing for the first out of the inning and then turned things over to the Chicago bullpen from there. Reliever Chris Martin extinguished the threat in the eighth, giving way to closer David Robertson for his ninth save of the year in the ninth inning.

St. Louis mustered just five hits and didn’t get a man into scoring position until Bader’s double in the eighth. A quiet night for the offense turned St. Louis starter Andre Pallante into a hard-luck loser despite logging a quality start, allowing three runs over six innings.

Pallante described his ability to go back out to complete the sixth inning after giving up his third run in the fifth inning as an important achievement for his mentality as he settles into a role in the Cardinals rotation.

His hitters didn’t provide the rookie right-hander with much of a chance to go home a winner. With Hendricks opposing them, that’s nothing new for the Cardinals’ offense.