Kyle Hendricks has silenced the doubters to a whisper.
The 24-year-old rookie has never been considered a top prospect because he doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he just keeps right on rolling. Tuesday night, Hendricks shut down the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-0 Cubs win in front of 28,819 fans at Wrigley Field.
Hendricks went 7.1 innings, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out five. It was his fifth straight quality start and lowered his season ERA to a sparkling 1.73.
Since giving up three earned runs in the first inning of his big-league debut, Hendricks has allowed just five earned runs in 40.2 innings (good for a 1.11 ERA). He's 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his last five starts, showcasing his sky-high confidence.
"It's unbelievable right now," Hendricks said. "Every time I go out there, I just feel confident that I can make pitches. It grows each start and it's going to keep growing, hopefully.
"The work I've been putting in in between starts with [Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio] has been unbelievable and we've just been rolling. The team has been playing great every time I go out there, scoring runs, making plays behind me. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Hendricks departed in the top of the eighth after allowing three singles to load the bases, but Cubs setup man Pedro Strop came on and promptly induced a double play to end the threat and keep the shutout intact.
In the fourth inning, Hendricks really showed what he was made of in striking out Ryan Braun. Hendricks went right after the former MVP, dialing it up to 91 mph on an elevated fastball to get Braun swinging.
"When he needs 91, 92, he can throw it in there," Cubs catcher Welington Castillo said. "He knows what he's doing on the mound, so that makes my job very easy."
The Cubs flashed the leather behind Hendricks Tuesday with some nice plays from middle infielders Starlin Castro and Javier Baez.
Hendricks is starting to get into Mark Buehrle territory with his quick tempo, finishing off the Brewers in two hours and 22 minutes.
"That's something I've always done since I was little. Just pitch quick. The pace of the game is big for me," Hendricks said. "It keeps the infielders in the game and hopefully keeps them on their toes. That's just my pitching style."
And it's working for the position players, who say they like playing defense behind a guy that throws strikes and works quickly.
The Cubs tallied solo runs in the second, fourth and sixth as Arismendy Alcantara (2-for-3 with a run and RBI) and Justin Ruggiano (2-for-3, RBI) did some damage at the bottom of the order and Anthony Rizzo hit his 26th home run.
Hector Rondon closed it out in the ninth for his 15th save.
In a bit of a statistical oddity, the Cubs have now beat Brewers starter Wily Peralta (14-7, 3.46 ERA) three times this season, outscoring Milwaukee 15-0 in that span.