Remember those days in college where the professor would begin class by asking a question about the symbolism of breaking eggs in Gulliver’s Travels? And it immediately became clear that nobody in class actually read Gulliver’s Travels because it conflicted with assembling a perfect Saran Wrap thong for last night’s Shock Yo Mama party? So everyone just sat there in increasing discomfort in a room dominated by crushing silence and the kind of regret that could only be summed up by the words “Milwaukee’s Best?”
That’s what the Reds offense felt like against Kyle Hendricks tonight.
Hendricks entered the game with a robust 8.78 ERA in three road starts on the season. Which meant that the professor’s first lesson was going to be “small sample size means nothing.” He set the tone by retiring the top of the Reds order in eleven pitches in the first inning, nine of which were strikes--including strikeouts of Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suárez. And then proceeded to retire the first ten batters in a row, including a nasty 3-2 changeup to strike out Yasiel Puig that created the hashtag #HendricksYourDaddy.
Meanwhile, the Cubs would have to seek out a new source for offense with Anthony Rizzo missing his second consecutive game with a sore back, sustained while carrying the entire Cubs lineup on it from 2012-14. So Hendricks decided to take matters into his own hands there too.
Reds starter Tanner Roark got two quick outs in the top of the second and up stepped Daniel Descalso with nobody on. The Reds then chose to go into a unique defensive shift against the Cubs second baseman, abandoning the entire left side of the infield in favor of four outfielders. It was an interesting choice considering Descalso spent his previous 15 games slashing .091/.167/.182. Granted, part of that has been due to his ankle injury. But most baseball analysts would agree that against that kind of offensive production, the best possible shift is usually “placing the ball on a tee.”
Sure enough, Descalso squared around and dropped a bunt to the open side of the field. Roark got to it but couldn’t unleash an accurate throw and the Cubs were gifted a two out hit. Which brings us to tonight’s...
Quote of the Game:
“Why don’t they ALL do that?!”
--Everybody’s Dad, simultaneously
Albert Almora Jr. followed by lining a single to left just past a sprawling Jose Iglesias and the Cubs had a scoring threat. No one in Cincinnati was that worried, though, as up stepped Hendricks and his .067/.125/.067 line. For some reason, this time the Reds looked at those numbers and didn’t send out a fourth outfielder.
Which they should have. Because Hendricks laced an 0-1 fastball to straightaway center well over Senzel’s head, driving in both runners with a two out double. And as Senzel pursued the ball at the base of the center field wall, he could overhear the voice of The Professor calling out, “You were asking for an illustration of chaos theory...”
The 2-0 lead lasted until Hendricks’s perfect game was broken up with one out in the fourth. On a 1-1 count, Hendricks threw a fastball that trailed out over the heart of the plate against Joey Votto, who entered tonight’s game hitting .206. Votto hitting .206 is so overdue that the Reds are paying his 2019 salary in dimes. (Or perhaps in tribute to the land of his birth, Loonies.) And he knew what to do with a mistake pitch down the middle, crushing it to the right center field bleachers for a solo home run that cut the lead to 2-1.
You could tell Hendricks was upset because he turned his head two degrees to the right. Highlights editors at MLB Network are going to have to work overtime tonight blurring out the word “Fiddlesticks.”
It took all of a half inning for the Cubs to restore the lead back to two, as Kris Bryant led off the fifth by lasering a leadoff hit to left field and hustling it into a double. Javy Báez moved him to third by singling off the end of his bat to right field. And with runners on the corners and no one out, Willson Contreras looked like he was headed for a bad at bat by swinging and missing at consecutive inside and outside fastballs. However, he turned it into a great AB by getting the barrel of the bat around on an inside pitch and lofting a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 3-1 Cubs.
From there, Hendricks took over, helped out by the occasional moment of brilliant defense. With one out in the fifth, Derek Dietrich sent a deep fly ball to left center field that looked headed for extra bases and possibly out of the park. Almora furiously sprinted after it and leaped valiantly in front of the 387 foot marker, gloving the ball at the very apex of his jump while crashing into the wall as if his outfield instructor was Kool Aid Man. He also let out an “OH YEAAAAHHH!” as he picked himself up off the warning track. Even Hendricks momentarily forgot who he was as he put his hands to his head in the “Rizzo on third base in the 10th inning of Game 7” pose.
And then with runners on the corners and two out, Tucker Barnhart sent a sharp grounder up the middle that was stabbed by a diving Descalso. As he got to his knees, Descalso fumbled getting the ball out of his glove and things appeared to be dire. Until you could see him remember, “Oh right...the catcher hit that...” before throwing him out at first to retire the side.
That was it for the Reds on the night. Hendricks ended up with his first three hit game in the majors. Which happened to also be the number of hits he gave up to the Reds over eight-plus innings. The loudest cheer of the night came when Jason Heyward struck out in the ninth inning, earning all fans free food. You can tell there wasn’t much going on for Reds fans when everyone was successfully able to convince themselves they were excited by the concept of Cincinnati pizza.
The best word to describe Hendricks’s pitching tonight was “Brobdingnagian.” Or it would have been if the Reds bothered to do the reading.