PITTSBURGH -- Talk about a night and year of milestones. The Chicago Cubs reached another one on Monday in a 12-2 thumping of the Pittsburgh Pirates -- winning their 100th game -- while statements were made by Cy Young contenders and MVP candidates alike.
Kyle Hendricks: He lowered his ERA to 1.99 with six scoreless innings giving Cy Young voters even more to think about when they cast their ballots next week.
“He just finds a way to make weak contact,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “It doesn’t seem like there are any hard ground balls. And the pop-ups. It’s unbelievable what he can do. He just knows how to pitch.”
Bryant just made Hendricks’ Cy Young case for him without even knowing it. The Cubs defense has earned plenty of credit this season, and some have pointed in that direction when discussing Hendricks’ success -- but that would be doing him a disservice. Hendricks gives up the least hard contact in the league. Maybe the Cubs defense has benefited from him more than the other way around. As for that ERA, it speaks for itself. Hendricks didn’t look at it until he was out of the game.
“You’ve got guys in here (the clubhouse) all over me telling me about it,” he said smiling.
Bryant was even interested in how far it had dropped as the game went along.
“I kept looking,” Bryant stated. “Is he under 2.00?”
Hendricks is just under 2.00, and with one start left for him as well as teammate Jon Lester (2.28) one of them will win the ERA title.
“It’s either me or Jon,” Hendricks said. “That’s the cool part about it. It’s going to go to one of us.”
Kris Bryant: He finally reached 100 RBIs after being stuck on 99 for several days. Last season Bryant ended the year one short of the century mark.
“Just thinking back to last year and ending on 99, I didn’t want to do that two years in a row,” he said. “I knew it would happen.”
It came on his 39th home run, and Bryant crossed the plate as RBI No. 101. Teammate Chris Coghlan was on base when Bryant homered, accounting for the slugger’s 100th RBI. Before the game, Bryant had made a promise to Coghlan, who was the leadoff man against the Pirates, hitting right in front of Bryant.
“I told him I would give him all the money in my wallet if he scored my 100th RBI,” Bryant admitted.
Time to pay up.
The Cubs can have fun in a week when only individual awards and statistics are at stake. Clinching early will do that. But Monday wasn’t about the MVP race for Bryant -- he just wanted to break the 100-RBI barrier that eluded him last season.
“You want it right away,” Bryant explained. “Sometimes it doesn’t come to you, then you start trying harder and it comes out of the blue. I’m happy it’s over. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”
Now about 40 home runs ...