Kyle Hendricks improves, but Twins defeat Cubs behind Max Kepler’s big day

Kyle Hendricks improves, but Twins defeat Cubs behind Max Kepler’s big day

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Kepler went 3-for-3 with two homers and a double against Hendricks in the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Twins

There’s only one thing that kept starter Kyle Hendricks from a solid performance in his final start at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. His name was Max Kepler. The Twins’ right fielder was a pain in Hendricks’ side in the Cubs’ 5-3 loss to Minnesota, going 3-for-3 with a pair of no-doubt home runs and a double.

Kepler got the Twins going early as he launched a long homer off Hendricks after getting behind in the count, giving Minnesota an early 2-0 lead. It was the 31st homer Hendricks has allowed this season, which is a career-high and fifth-most in MLB.

Following the two-run shot in the first inning, the Cubs’ right-hander started to get himself into a groove. He would go on to retire the next nine batters and looked like the team’s ace. But with one out in the fourth inning, Kepler did more damage.

After working a 3-2 count, Kepler hit his second home run of the game off Hendricks to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. Once again, Hendricks was able to pitch around without allowing any damage.

But Hendricks wasn’t able to leave the game without Kepler being a pest one last time. Kepler came within inches of hitting his third long ball of the night off Hendricks in the sixth inning, but the ball hit off the top of the wall for a double.

“He just put good swings on it tonight,” Hendricks said. It was either I fell behind or I miss-executed. Maybe executed one pitch to him, an up-and-in fastball. Other than that, just pitches over the middle of the plate.”

He would come around to score as Matt Duffy’s error allowed him to come around from second base, giving Minnesota a 4-2 lead.

Hendricks would leave the game after 5 2/3 innings and while he didn’t complete the sixth inning, he had a better game than his final line might indicate. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits. He struck out three batters and didn’t allow a walk.

“That was kind of the goal going in,” Hendricks said. “Really make sure we established down and away. Got back down in the zone with some angle. … Made a lot more good pitches. Still didn’t execute as many as I needed to, but at least I went in with the goal of getting my heater down to both sides.”

Chirinos leaves with oblique injury

Catcher Robinson Chirinos was removed from Wednesday’s game with a left oblique injury. During his at-bat in the seventh inning, Chirinos fouled a pitch off. But as he finished his swing, he reached for his left side, leading to a visit from manager David Ross and head athletic trainer PJ Mainville.

After a brief discussion, Chirinos came out of the game. Outfielder Nick Martini would finish the at-bat and catcher Austin Romine would take over behind the plate.

Chirinos has been a stabilizing force for the Cubs’ backup catchers after the team went through a revolving door at the position behind Willson Contreras. The team has used six backup catchers this season.

“I think the check swing before, on the second to last pitch before I went out there. Looked like he did something,” Ross said after the game. “Watched the next pitch, it looked like it grabbed again. He was poking in there. … Sounds like maybe some sort of oblique strain but we’ll know more tomorrow.”

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