SPOKANE, WA - The Chicago Cubs were just one win away from advancing to their first World Series since 1945, but one of the best pitchers in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, stood in their way. As it turned out, it didn't matter, because the Cubs had an ace of their own - former Spokane Indians pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks, who posted a 1.93 ERA for the Indians in 2011, became the first pitcher ever with seven or more innings pitched, zero runs, zero walks, and two hits or fewer in a series-clinching win. Nicknamed "The Professor" for his calm demeanor and cerebral approach to his craft, the 26-year-old righty didn't let a raucous crowd of 42,386 fans at Wrigley Field faze him.
"The outside forces felt different," Hendricks said. "You felt the buzz around the stadium, definitely the energy. It was loud in there. But, at the end of the day, I didn't feel much different. All I was trying to do was simplify and make good pitches."
After allowing a leadoff single to Andrew Toles in the first, Hendricks induced a double play from Corey Seager - setting the tone for the rest of his outing. The MLB ERA leader during the regular season went on to face the minimum over 7.1 masterful innings as he etched his name into Cubs history with a performance for the ages. Hendricks picked off Josh Reddick after the Dodgers outfielder reached on an error in the second and didn't allow another baserunner until Reddick's single with one out in the eighth inning.
"That was the best pitching performance I've seen," teammate Kris Bryant said after the game. "He pitched exactly the way he wanted. Keeping them off balance, soft contact. He's certainly the unsung hero of this team."
Hendricks received a standing ovation from the Wrigley faitfhul when he was replaced by Aroldis Chapman, who got a double play grounder from Howie Kendrick to end the eighth, before completing Chicago's 5-0 shutout of the Dodgers with a scoreless ninth.
After turning in one of the greatest starts in postseason history, Hendricks would certainly be forgiven for reveling in the moment, but the ever-studious pitcher had already turned his attention to the team's World Series opponent - the Cleveland Indians.
"As good as this feels, as much as we're going to enjoy it, we're going to have fun tonight, but getting up tomorrow, we know what we've got to do come Tuesday," Hendricks said.
Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25 at Progressive Field. Carl "CJ" Edwards, who played for the Spokane Indians in 2012 and is yet to allow a run in the playoffs, will also join Hendricks as part of Chicago's World Series roster.