SAN FRANCISCO — In a long marathon season, no singular win or loss in early June should carry extra weight. But after the way things went in the first three games in San Francisco this weekend, the Cubs needed this one.
On Sunday, Kyle Hendricks worked into the seventh, Patrick Wisdom launched two home runs and the North Siders escaped Oracle Park with a 4-3 win over the Giants. The victory surely provided a collective sigh of relief, if only temporarily.
The road does not get easier from here for the Cubs.
“You have points like that all the time,” Cubs center fielder Ian Happ said. “We had some points early in this year … where you do, you need a win. You need a point to kind of pick the team back up and hopefully get you going in the right direction.”
After dropping three of four to a surprising Giants squad that is leading the National League West, Chicago heads to Southern California for a three-game series with the potent Padres. With their win, the Cubs avoided being swept in a four-game set in San Francisco for the first time since 2012.
While the Cubs have climbed the NL Central while dealing with a wave of injuries — another seemingly minor issue arose late Sunday with Javier Báez exiting with right thumb soreness — some unexpected players have stepped up. That includes Wisdom, whose two blasts gave him six in his past seven games.
Hendricks laughed when asked if he was happy not to be tasked with facing Wisdom right now.
“You said it, man. No truer words could be spoken,” Hendricks said. “He is so hot right now. Wow. What a huge lift not only today, but what he’s been doing every time he plays, every time he goes out there. It’s just amazing to watch. We’re all just enjoying it right now.”
In fact, Wisdom has launched seven homers this season in eight starts for the Cubs. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, he joined Colorado’s Trevor Story (2016) and Cincinnati’s Aristides Aquino (2019) as the only players on record with at least seven blasts in their first eight starts for a team.
The Cubs have needed it, too.
“He’s doing a nice job for us,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Definitely giving us more than I think we expected, right? That would definitely be a true statement. He’s come in and filled in really nicely and almost carried us here for a little while.”
Chicago also needed what Hendricks provided.
Following 10 combined innings by the Cubs rotation in the first three games, Hendricks did his part by working 6 1/3 frames. The righty allowed three runs in the first two innings, but settled down and held San Francisco to a 1-for-14 showing the rest of the way.
“There’s just times in the season,” Ross said, “where some things kind of go awry with the other starts. A couple short outings from the starters and we needed some length out of him. … We’ve taxed that bullpen really, really hard. He picked us up.”
Hendricks assisted a lineup that relied on the homer in the past four games, as opposed to the more versatile offensive approach of recent weeks. The pitcher led off the fifth with a double, scoring the game’s decisive run later on an error by Buster Posey.
It was not a perfect win, but it was closer to the brand of baseball that helped Chicago rattle off 20 wins in 27 games prior to this series.
Hendricks’ outing set things up for the Cubs’ late-inning trio of righty Ryan Tepera, lefty Andrew Chafin and closer Craig Kimbrel. There were defensive gems — like Happ throwing Posey out at the plate in the second and Kris Bryant robbing an extra-base hit from Mauricio Dubón with a leaping catch at the wall in left in the ninth.
And it all added up to a much-needed victory to close out the first road series in a daunting month for the Cubs.
“This is a good stretch,” Hendricks said. “You want to play the good teams. It elevates your level of competition, elevates your game. You want to play the good teams right now. This is definitely one of the best teams in the league.”
The next test arrives in San Diego.
“Taking this last game,” Happ said, “and having some momentum going into San Diego is obviously great for us. But that’s the ebb and flow of 162. There’s going to be points like that.”