With their win Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs improved to 81-45 this season, the first time they have been 36 or more games over .500 since finishing the 1945 season at 98-56.
Kyle Hendricks allowed two runs over six innings and picked up his 12th win of the season, a 6-3 decision against the San Diego Padres. Following the start, his ERA sits at 2.19, a quarter of a run lower than any other qualified pitcher.
What he did today
Typically, Hendricks is a changeup-dominant pitcher, but he used his fastball Wednesday. Padres hitters were 1-for-9 in at-bats ending in a fastball from Hendricks, including four strikeouts. Hendricks worked the pitch up in the zone, striking out batters in three of four at-bats ending with fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone or higher.
Where does he stand in the National League Cy Young race?
Hendricks leads the majors in ERA by a quarter of a run, and he has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 17 straight starts, the longest streak in MLB this season.
Entering the season, the question was whether his teammate Jake Arrieta could repeat as NL Cy Young Award winner. Now, Hendricks may have put himself out in front for the award.
Why he could win
Hendricks has developed a knack for limiting hard contact. Entering his start Wednesday, he was the only qualified starter with a hard-hit rate below 10 percent.
Hendricks also ranks in the top 20 among qualified pitchers in strikeout rate (22 percent), walk rate (6 percent) and home run rate (2 percent).
The case against him
Through his start Wednesday, Hendricks has pitched 152 innings, which is nearly 30 fewer than Madison Bumgarner, who also is in early contention for the award. His 6.1 innings per start rank 29th in the majors.
Hendricks is scheduled to take his next start Tuesday at Wrigley Field against the Pittsburgh Pirates.