Chicago Cubs

Clayton Kershaw the latest to compare Kyle Hendricks to Greg Maddux

Clayton Kershaw the latest to compare Kyle Hendricks to Greg Maddux

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.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

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."

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

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AP

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

How's this for a #WayBackWednesday?

Homer Bailey — the Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Wednesday night — has dealt with arm injuries the last few years, meaning the last time he faced the Cubs was July 10, 2014.

The only holdover from that lineup three years ago is Anthony Rizzo:

The full lineup:

1. Chris Coghlan - LF
2. Arismendy Alcantara - 2B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Starlin Castro - SS
5. Luis Valbuena - 3B
6. Ryan Sweeney - CF
7. Nate Schierholtz - RF
8. John Baker - C
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

Yep, that was Mr. Hendricks' MLB debut. He gave up four runs in six innings before a bullpen combination of James Russell, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Blake Parker shut down the Reds to give the Cubs a 6-4 victory in 12 innings.

But that's not all. 

That was the same day Anthony Rizzo tried to take on the entire Reds roster after Aroldis Chapman struck out Schierholtz with a 103 mph pitch close to his head:

Rizzo emerged as a leader that day, willing to take on an entire team to back his own roster and stick up for his guys. That was the year before the Cubs made the playoffs and to that point, Rizzo had only been a part of losing teams. But he put the Cubs on his back starting that fateful day in Cincinnati, the last time Bailey faced the Cubs.

Alcantara — who is now in the Reds system and was just outrighted to Double-A this week — had four hits and drove in three runs in that game while Valbuena drove in the winning runs with a two-out triple in the top of the 12th. The Cubs finished 73-89 in 2014 under Ricky Renteria, who got a World Series ring from the Cubs last month for all the work he did in 2014.

Since that day, the Cubs have ended their championship drought (obviously) thanks in part to Chapman and Rizzo has become the unquestioned face of the franchise and one of the top players in baseball.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Does Joe Maddon deserve criticism for his late-game decisions?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Does Joe Maddon deserve criticism for his late-game decisions?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel.  The Cubs manage just a single run after scoring 15 the night before.  Does Joe Maddon deserve criticism for his late-game decisions? 

Everybody is fired up about Mitch Trubisky except for Mitch Trubisky. When will the hype become reality and he gets the starting nod?

Plus Dwyane Wade is reportedly set to accept a buyout and Jerry Reinsdorf wouldn’t hire Ozzie Guillen to be his manager ever again.

Listen to the full epidsode here