CHICAGO (AP) – Kyle Hendricks threw seven dominant innings to lower the majors’ best ERA to 2.09 and Anthony Rizzo homered to lead the Cubs past the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 on Tuesday night for Chicago’s 21st victory in August.
Hendricks (13-7) allowed three hits and has given up three or fewer runs in 18 straight starts. He didn’t allow a hit until Gregory Polanco’s bloop to left-center in the fifth and faced the minimum 17 batters until John Jaso’s two-out double in the sixth.
Rizzo belted a two-run homer off Chad Kuhl (3-2) in the first and Miguel Montero added an RBI single an inning later as the Cubs improved to 84-47.
Carl Edwards Jr. worked the eighth and Aroldis Chapman finished the four-hitter for his 31st save as the Cubs improved to 21-6 this month, one win shy of the best August in franchise history set in 1932.
Hendricks, who began the season as the No. 5 starter, is well ahead of No. 2 Madison Bumgarner of San Francisco (2.49) in the ERA race. He mixed his below-average 90 mph fastball with a dominant changeup and sinker to strike out four.
Andrew McCutchen’s one-out single in the seventh was the other hit off the right-hander. Hendricks is seeking to become the first Cubs pitcher to win the major league ERA title since Bill Lee in 1938.
Since Sept. 1, 2015, Hendricks is 18-7 with a 2.25 ERA.
Kuhl, in his ninth major league start, allowed three runs and four hits in five innings as the Pirates lost their second straight after winning four in a row.
Jordy Mercer doubled with two outs off Edwards in the eighth before pinch-hitter Matt Joyce flied deep to center to end Pittsburgh’s best threat.
Chapman hit 103 mph while striking out one in a perfect ninth.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (elbow inflammation) played catch, a day after being put on the 15-day disabled list. He could return as soon as Sept. 9. “Hopefully, (the rehab) will go quickly,” Cole said. . INF Jung Ho Kang (shoulder), working out with Indianapolis, is expected to begin an official rehab stint with the Triple-A team this week.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session Thursday. If it goes well, he could start Sunday vs. San Francisco.
A large chunk of the outfield in center and right fields was re-sodded and looks chewed up after Wrigley Field hosted Pearl Jam and Billy Joel concerts while the Cubs were away.
“It’s like a field after a concert,” RF Jason Heyward said.
RHP Jason Hammel (13-7, 3.21) was moved up to start Wednesday night’s series finale against RHP Ryan Vogelsong (3-3, 3.02). LHP Mike Montgomery was pushed to Thursday. Hammel was lifted after allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings Saturday. “He wants to get back out there,” manager Joe Maddon said.