Cubs squander Kyle Hendricks’ first start in two weeks, lose to Padres

Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks’ 80 mph changeup dropped out of the strike zone, but Padres leadoff hitter Trent Grisham didn’t recognize the pitch in time. His back knee dropped to the ground as he finished his swing, thoroughly fooled on strike three to end the fifth inning.

That’s the kind of deception Hendricks creates when he’s a his best

Hendricks made his first start in two weeks Tuesday, in the Cubs’ 12-5 loss to the Padres. Manager David Ross decided to give Hendricks time to rest his fatigued shoulder and used the Cubs’ days off last week to skip Hendricks’ turn in the rotation.

”It’s going to pay off in the long term, for sure,” Hendricks said last week.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the time off would affect the short term. Hendricks answered that question against the Padres, allowing one run in five-plus innings. But the Cubs’ loss extended their skid to eight games.

“Anytime you do take a little time off, you can use it to just step away for a minute mentally and physically,” Hendricks said last week. ”Recharge the body but also let the mind go and just reset. Reset and refocus on the things that I need to do well. So I’m using this time for that. Just get away a little bit, but refocus on the right things.”

Hendricks has had an up-and-down season. Last month in San Diego, he came one out away from a complete-game shutout against the Padres. Two starts later, he gave up seven runs to the Diamondbacks.

”I think there’s just a little bit of him getting back to doing some of the things he does really well more consistently,” Ross said before the game Tuesday. ”And making sure — whether it’s throwing pitches in the right area or pitch selection or pitch movement or a pitch you haven’t used a lot, just a lot of different stuff like that — that hopefully we get back.”

Hendricks’ scoreless first inning was littered with deep counts, but he honed his efficiency after that.

In the second, he needed only 11 pitches to retire the side in order. In the third, a fielding error didn’t faze him. In the fourth, he used soft contact to his advantage. In the fifth, he got out of a jam with the strikeout that dropped Grisham to one knee.

Hendricks faced only one batter in the sixth, giving up a double to Jake Cronenworth. Ross replaced Hendricks with

reliever Chris Martin as Padres star Manny Machado stepped to the plate. Hendricks had thrown 78 pitches.

”There were thoughts of him being able to throw the last game in New York [on Sunday],” Ross said before the game. ”Probably would have been on a lower pitch count. It’s a hot day [today]. I’ll watch it and see how it is. But we’ll treat it like a normal start for him.”

Cronenworth later scored, accounting for Hendricks’ one run allowed, as part of the Padres’ four-run sixth.

Hendricks leaned on his changeup throughout his outing. It accounted for 40% of his pitches, according to Statcast, higher than his 29% average this season.

The changeup helped Hendricks generate six strikeouts.

Meanwhile, the Cubs’ offense, led by Willson Contreras, snapped a streak of seven games of scoring four runs or fewer.

Contreras homered in his first two at-bats. The first was a solo home run to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first. The second was a two-run shot that made it 3-0 in the third. It was the 10th multihomer game of Contreras’ career.

The Padres then added six runs in the seventh against the Cubs’ bullpen, giving the home team a steep hill to climb. The Cubs used three different relievers in the seventh inning alone.

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