LOS ANGELES - The best pitcher on the planet (besides Andrew Miller) compared Kyle Hendricks to the best pitcher of a generation.
Clayton Kershaw will go up against Hendricks for the second time in the National League Championship Series in Game 6 Saturday at Wrigley Field and the Dodgers ace said he sees a little Greg Maddux in the young right-hander.
"He's kind of like the Greg Maddux of this generation, with his ability to sink the ball, cut the ball and put him in spots where hitters are enticed to swing at it, but you can't put the barrel on it," Kershaw said before Thursday's Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.
"He's really good at mixing speeds, changing it up. He's a tough guy to go against, for sure."
That's some high praise from a guy who's won three NL Cy Youngs (2011, 2013, 2014) and tallied four straight ERA titles from 2011-14.
Maddux won 355 games over a 23-year career and took home four straight Cy Youngs from 1992-95, a span in which he had a ridiculous .721 winning percentage (75-29) and 1.98 ERA.
Hendricks, of course, is in the Cy Young running this season and paced the big leagues with a 2.13 ERA.
In Game 2 at Wrigley Field, the two pitchers squared off in a pretty epic duel. The Dodgers wound up winning 1-0 on a second-inning wind-aided homer by Adrian Gonzalez.
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During the regular season, pitchers usually dismiss the notion that they're going up against the other starter, talking more about pitching to the opposing lineup than trying to match the other guy on the mound.
But in the postseason, runs are fewer and farther between, so pitching matchups come to the forefront.
"In the playoffs, it is a little more between the pitchers than it would be in the regular season," Hendricks said. "I only say that because regular season, you don't really look at it at all.
"In playoffs, you definitely look at it. I think that's the difference there, especially when you're going up against a guy like Kershaw. You know he's over there, so it makes it fun."
Kershaw shut down the Cubs - and the whole can't-pitch-in-the-postseason narrative - and gave his team a big lift in Game 2, silencing the Wrigley crowd.
Instead of going on short rest in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, the club opted to keep Kershaw in their back pocket and try to neutralize the 40,000-plus Cubs fans in Game 6.
"He could definitely negate a phone booth," Maddon said. "This guy, when he's pitching well, he's just that good. There is that certain set of pitchers that are that guy and the confidence he brings to their group.
"There is no question about that. But at this time of the year, if you wanted to get to your ultimate goal, you have to beat people like that. You have to."