Almost one week into the 2021 season, there will be an Opening Day reset for right-handers Brandon Woodruff of the Milwaukee Brewers and Kyle Hendricks of the Chicago Cubs.
The two will square off Wednesday afternoon at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, six days after each started the season for their respective teams with an outing that failed to meet expectations.
Woodruff lasted just four innings in the Brewers’ season opener Thursday against the Minnesota Twins, giving up three early runs as Milwaukee fell into a 3-1 hole after four innings before they rallied for a 6-5 victory in 10 innings.
If there was a positive for Woodruff, it was that all three of his runs allowed came on two-strike pitches with two outs. He said he was off his game because he was not able to locate his fastball.
After scoring just five runs in three consecutive defeats, the Brewers looked a bit more settled Tuesday, getting a three-run home run from Travis Shaw and a solo shot from Omar Narvaez in a 4-0 victory over the Cubs. Three Milwaukee pitchers, starting with Freddy Peralta, held the Cubs to one hit.
“Everything’s kind of magnified early in the season,” Shaw said. “Guys can feel that at times, but I mean, it’s Game 5. You go 3-for-4 in a game and everything’s all right. We score nine in one game and everything’s going to be all right. We’re in a good spot.”
In 13 starts last season, Woodruff was limited to 12 outs just once, in a game where he gave up just two runs to the Cincinnati Reds but made 91 pitches. In eight career appearances against the Cubs (six starts), Woodruff is 0-1 with a 4.65 ERA.
Hendricks (0-1) had an even shorter opener than Woodruff, lasting three innings while giving up three runs on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts. The Cubs fell 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday and did not lose again until they fell to the Brewers on Tuesday.
After delivering a 2.88 ERA in 12 starts last season and finishing ninth in National League Cy Young voting, Hendricks will look to improve in his second home start. He did not have a start shorter than 4 1/3 innings last season.
In 23 career starts against the Brewers, Hendricks is 9-6 with a sparkling 2.84 ERA over 136 1/3 innings. It is his most starts and innings pitched against any team in his career.
Run support for Hendricks will be a priority after the Cubs had just a fourth-inning double from Kris Bryant on Tuesday. Peralta gave the Brewers five scoreless innings, Brent Suter had three and Brad Boxberger had a scoreless ninth in his Brewers debut.
The Cubs might have gained inspiration from a ninth-inning incident when Boxberger hit Willson Contreras with a pitch. Contreras, who was also hit in the helmet by a pitch Monday, took exception with both benches clearing. The teams did not come to blows.
“It’s just scary right now,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “At some point, you have to be better. You can’t just continue to try to pitch in and hit guys. You’ve got to be better.”
–Field Level Media