|Cubs give ball to Hendricks for playoff prep start vs. Pirates|
The two pitchers scheduled to face each other Wednesday in Pittsburgh -- Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks and Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams -- have a lot on the line, but for very different reasons.
Hendricks (6-4, 2.93 ERA) is probably making his final start before the Cubs (32-23) enter the playoffs. Chicago clinched a postseason berth Tuesday when Washington swept Philadelphia in a doubleheader despite the Cubs' 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
"This is the goal, obviously," Hendricks said of prepping himself for the playoffs, something he seemed to be right on track in doing his last time out.
His last time out, Hendricks threw eight scoreless innings in a 1-0 win against Minnesota on Friday. He struck out 10 and yielded three hits with a walk. It was the third start among his first 11 in which he went at least eight innings.
Against the Twins, Hendricks effectively used his fastball, changeup and curve.
"I'm just getting away from being that two-pitch guy," Hendricks said. "Throwing another wrinkle. It just opens up the rest of my game. ... So when I see an opportunity to kind of throw a lot of (curveballs), I'm not shying away from it anymore. That's really big."
Hendricks is 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in four starts in September, with 27 strikeouts and three walks.
"When you have a pitcher that can get ahead in the count real quick like Hendricks, and then he can execute with two strikes, you have nowhere to go but to the bench," Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said. "It's really good to be behind the plate with Kyle."
Or just in the same organization.
"We're going to rely on Kyle (in the playoffs). I don't think there's any secret about that," Chicago manager David Ross said. "He's one of our horses, man. This guy is as good as it gets for me. It's just fun to be his manager."
Hendricks is 6-7 with a 3.07 ERA in 18 career starts against Pittsburgh.
Williams (1-8, 6.70), meanwhile, will be making his final start of 2020 before an uncertain offseason. Two seasons ago he had an eye-popping second half (7-3, 1.38) and seemed entrenched in Pittsburgh's plans for years to come.
He hasn't reached that level since. This season has been filled with frustration. He has an inflated ERA. Opponents are hitting .310 against him. He has given up 14 homers in 10 starts, six of them on two-strike counts and 12 on fastballs.
Williams has tried to maintain some sense of balance.
"I think at this level you have to understand that sometimes the ball is not going to bounce your way," he said. "You're not going to catch breaks, and in a year like this year, you're looking to catch some breaks every five days and you're hoping that's going to happen. And you can't let one thing or two things affect the way that you pitch and affect your identity as a pitcher."
His last time out, Williams gave up six runs, five of them earned, and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings Friday against St. Louis, taking the loss in a 6-5 setback.
"We are trending up as far as the process of what we are getting better with -- my arm action, my pitch selection, how I use my body to throw," he said. "Obviously, you want results now in the season like we have. You want to see the results as fast as possible. But to finish this year with 11 starts, which is a third of what we (normally) get, the process can't really come to fruition because we don't have a full season."
Williams is 3-7 with a 6.09 ERA in 12 career appearances, including 10 starts, against the Cubs.
--Field Level Media