Kyle Hendricks is like no other pitcher Cubs manager Joe Maddon has had.
‘‘He’s different from other command guys,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I haven’t had anyone [be] that successful with that repertoire.’’
Catcher Miguel Montero has worked with countless pitchers, strong and weak, winners and losers. His assessment that Hendricks ‘‘knows how to pitch’’ has a deeper meaning than the obvious.
‘‘He prepares himself probably better than anyone,’’ Montero said. ‘‘He has a plan, and he knows how to execute it.
Catcher Miguel Montero says right-hander Kyle Hendricks prepares himself better than anyone. He says Hendricks has a game plan and sticks with it. | Dylan Buell/Getty Images
‘‘I wouldn’t say he’s a ‘thinking’ pitcher; I’d say he’s prepared. He has a plan, and he sticks with it, and when you do that, you have success.’’
Dexter Fowler can analyze Hendricks from a hitter’s point of view.
‘‘He hits his spots, and hats off to him for that,’’ Fowler said. ‘‘The guy pitches. He’s not overpowering, but he hits his spots, and that makes him difficult [to hit].’’
Hendricks is matter-of-fact, too, about what has made him a surprising Cy Young candidate.
‘‘I could tell last year, batters had more comfortable swings [against me],’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘I can tell now when guys have uncomfortable swings. Even my secondary pitches I can throw this year for strikes.’’
Those were the pitches he used Sunday after a second-inning breakdown in his fastball command allowed the Brewers to score two runs — a rarity for the pitcher with the best ERA (2.06) in the majors.
They were the only runs Hendricks allowed through six innings, but when the Cubs stranded 11 runners, it left Hendricks on the short end of a 3-1 decision.
It was his first loss since July 26, when the White Sox blanked the Cubs 3-0 at U.S. Cellular Field.
‘‘He’s a perfect example of if you’re going to vote on wins and losses,’’ Maddon said of the Cy Young ballot. ‘‘He’s a guy we haven’t supported with a lot of runs. It’s unfortunate.’’
Hendricks (15-8) had nine strikeouts to give him 161 in 179 innings, with only 43 walks.
On a team of improving young players who are playoff-bound for a second consecutive season, Hendricks might be the most notable surprise.
‘‘You can talk about Addison Russell, and [Kris Bryant] is having that [MVP] kind of year, but Kyle is probably the most significant [improvement],’’ Maddon said. ‘‘He and Addison, but there were more expectations that Addison would be [much improved]. Kyle was thought to be more status quo.’’
What has changed for Hendricks is not just greater control of a variety of pitches, but greater self-confidence.
When command of his fastball strayed in the second inning, he varied his offerings.
‘‘Last year, I wouldn’t have used my curveball and two-seamer,’’ he said. ‘‘Having the advantage to mix in your pitches when the fastball isn’t there is an adjustment I made this year.’’
The loss was only his second in the second half and second all year at Wrigley Field, where he owns a 1.11 ERA (11 earned runs in 89„ innings).
‘‘It’s the consistent feel and look,’’ he said of the home surroundings. ‘‘I know my routine here. I’m a routine-oriented guy, so consistency is a big thing for me.’’
It was his 21st consecutive start of allowing three earned runs or fewer, the longest such streak by any pitcher this season.
He joins Jake Arrieta, Mike Morgan (1992) and Frank Castillo (1994-95) as the only Cubs pitchers in the last 30 years to achieve such a streak.
But the loss snapped his career-best six-game winning streak and his nine-game home winning streak, the longest for a Cubs pitcher since Ryan Dempster had 10 in a row in 2008.
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