The Cubtober Diary: History is in the hands of Hendricks

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 16: Kyle Hendricks #28 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game two of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – On Saturday night just after 7 P.M., he will be in the heart of the madness.

Over 40-thousand bubbling with anticipation and dreams of a celebration figure to produce an electric atmosphere that will rival those of big games of the past at Wrigley Field.

After all it’s just the sixth time in the 102-year park’s history that it will host a game to clinch a series – and just the third to clinch a spot in the Fall Classic.

Standing on the mound in the middle of this is Kyle Hendricks, the 26-year old Cy Young Award candidate who will pitch the biggest game of his young career on Saturday. It’s his third start of this postseason and the fifth of his career for the quiet, craft right hander who prides himself on keeping it simple.

“It’s obviously going to be fun. It should be a close game. But, yeah, it’s definitely going to be important,” said Hendricks, who spoke of his Game 6 start on Thursday . “But in order to approach that game, you have to have simple thoughts, take the same approach as you would any other game.”

This is not just any other contest for Hendricks or the Cubs, however. A chance to end a 71-year World Series drought is on the line and Hendricks joins Dennis Eckersley, Scott Sanderson, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood as Cubs pitchers who’ve had the chance to send the team to the World Series since 1945.

The previous five failed to get the job done in 1984 and 2003. Prior and Wood had their shot in the same atmosphere as Hendricks will have at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

At least the young pitcher has enjoyed his share of success in the Friendly Confines, going 9-2 in the regular season with a 1.32 ERA.

“It’s big, but at the end of the day, you have to take the same mindset into it as any game. It was a good, maybe, precursor Game 2 for me,” said Hendricks. “It’s going to be the same environment as last year, Kershaw again. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a good matchup.”

Maybe a bit nerve-wracking for Cubs fans not just because of the circumstances but the man opposing Hendricks on the mound for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw’s first effort of the Cubs was a gem – seven innings, 2 hits and no runs as he helped the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory in Game 2 of the NLCS.

Hendricks took a hard luck loss that night as he allowed the only run of the game in the second inning on a homer by Adrian Gonzalez. Yet the rematch is something that the pitcher enjoys rather than dreads.

“I think in the playoffs it is a little more between the pitchers than it would be in the regular season. I only say that because regular season you really don’t look at it at all,” said Hendricks of the match-up with Kershaw. “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, though.”

Kyle can make things a lot more fun if he can deliver one more solid performance on the mound Saturday night.