CHICAGO (AP) — Kyle Hendricks could sense he had his command as soon as he stepped on the mound. He walked off 81 pitches later with possibly his best performance to date.
Hendricks tossed a four-hitter, Anthony Rizzo homered in his third straight game and the Chicago Cubs beat the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 on Friday.
The second-place Cubs won their season-high fifth in a row while cutting St. Louis’ division lead to 1½ games. The Cardinals have back-to-back losses after five consecutive victories.
Hendricks (2-4) threw the fewest pitches for the Cubs in a shutout since Jon Lieber’s 78 against Cincinnati on May 24, 2001, and the fewest for a major leaguer in a nine-inning shutout since Boston’s Aaron Cook needed 81 at Seattle on June 29, 2012.
“I just got a little bit lucky today, honestly,” Hendricks said. “I made a lot of good pitches early. … I got away with a few. But overall, the focus on just making a good pitch was a lot better today.”
Hendricks (2-4) pitched his third career shutout and fourth complete game, his first since he blanked Miami on Aug. 1, 2016 at Wrigley Field.
“I think what you saw today was an aggressive approach,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He attacked the zone. He made them put the ball in play. There were no walks. There were better counts. And that’s who he is.”
Hendricks struck out three and did not walk a batter, after getting pounded in a loss at Arizona last week.
“That was pitching, the art of pitching, controlling counts, changing speeds, in and out of the zone, had our guys off balance, did a really nice job,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
Rizzo made it 3-0 with a three-run drive against Jack Flaherty (3-2) in the third and finished with three hits. Javier Baez added an RBI single in the seventh.
Flaherty allowed three runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The Cubs have shutouts in back-to-back games for the second time this year. Jon Lester and two relievers combined for a one-hitter in an 11-0 romp at Seattle on Wednesday.
Hendricks followed that with another dominant outing at Wrigley Field. He has a 0.86 ERA in three starts at home, compared to an 8.78 ERA in three road outings.
Maddon said again shortstop Addison Russell is getting extra time at Triple-A Iowa after completing his 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy because the Cubs simply want him to get more at-bats.
He will also continue to get more work at second base before returning to the Cubs.
“We just want to make sure that he’s ready to play here,” he said.
Maddon also dismissed the idea that Russell would be better off rejoining the Cubs on the road, saying, “I don’t think it’s going to really matter, quite frankly…. I think regardless of where we play him, when he’s ready to go it’ll be fine.”
Russell was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday after completing his suspension. He was working out in Arizona, playing in extended spring training games and meeting with a counselor twice a week, before joining Iowa last week.
Cubs pitching prospect Oscar De La Cruz has been reinstated from the restricted list after serving an 80-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s drug program. The 24-year-old right-hander made three rehab starts with Class A Myrtle Beach and has now been assigned to Double-A Tennessee. He was suspended July 6 after testing positive for Furosemide, a diuretic and masking agent.
Cardinals: General manager John Mozeliak said it’s a “high probability” RHP Luke Gregerson (shoulder impingement) will be activated from the injured list prior to Saturday’s game. … OF Dexter Fowler (flu-like symptoms) pinch hit in the ninth after missing the previous three games.
Cubs: The Cubs returned RHP Tony Barnette (right shoulder inflammation) from a rehab assignment and transferred him to the 60-day injured list. Barnette, who made four rehab appearances for Triple-A Iowa, continues to experience tightness after he throws and will return to the Cubs’ facility in Arizona.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 4.78 ERA) went five innings in a win against Washington on Monday after missing a start because of tendinitis in his left knee.
Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish (2-3, 5.02) looks to build on his best start of the season after going six innings in a 9-1 victory at Arizona last week. The four-time All-Star allowed two hits, struck out eight and walked four.