CHICAGO (AP) Anthony Rizzo was annoyed as he faced a sea of microphones before the Chicago Cubs’ first game following the All-Star break.
”The only people that are panicking about this team is the media,” Rizzo said. ”It’s been pretty negative all the comments coming out of everyone’s mouth, except in this clubhouse.”
A few hours later, the Cubs put together one of their best games of the season.
Kyle Hendricks and four relievers combined on a five-hitter, Addison Russell had a two-run single to key a five-run sixth inning, and the Cubs beat the Texas Rangers 6-0 on Friday in a matchup of slumping division leaders.
”We pitched and really played defense today,” manager Joe Maddon said. ”It was outstanding.”
The Cubs won for the seventh time in 22 games, while the Rangers lost their eighth in 10 games thanks to a rough sixth that included Prince Fielder’s throwing error.
As Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have struggled lately, Hendricks (8-6) has remained sharp. The former Rangers draft pick allowed three hits in six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.41.
Only stars Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner have lower ERAs in the majors.
”Kyle’s one of the best pitchers in the National League right now and nobody is talking about it,” Maddon said.
Carl Edwards Jr. struck out two in a perfect seventh and Travis Wood, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm combined for the final six outs in Chicago’s eighth shutout.
Russell’s bases-loaded hit in the sixth was followed by pinch-hitter Matt Szczur’s two-run single against Martin Perez (7-6).
One of the runs was unearned after Fielder fired a throw high and wide of third in a rare start at first base due to interleague play.
”The sixth inning got away from us,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ”I felt like Martin was still making good pitches, still had life on his pitches. We just didn’t help him out.”
The Cubs, who entered percentage points ahead of Texas for the second-best record in the majors behind San Francisco, had seven hits on an unseasonably cool, drizzly day with the wind blowing in.
The breeze kept Rizzo’s drive to right in the park in the sixth that helped load the bases and extend his hitting streak to 10 games. Two batters later Russell came through.
”Took a few days off and came back and felt great,” Russell said.
Albert Almora Jr. added two fine catches in center field, Ben Zobrist made a nifty play at third and catcher Willson Contreras threw out Rougned Odor stealing second.
”We played poorly the last three weeks or so and showed our vulnerability and humanity as a team,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. ”In the long run that might be a good thing because it means we know how hard we have to work and how well we have to play to get where we want to go.”
Rangers: LHP Jake Diekman, who cut his left index finger on a beer mug earlier this month in Boston, was placed on the 15-day disabled list. It’s retroactive to July 6. … RHP Keone Kela (elbow) was activated. … LF Shin-Soo Choo (back) was out of the lineup. Ryan Rua replaced him, while Odor led off.
Cubs: OF Dexter Fowler (hamstring) isn’t expected back before the end of next week. … C David Ross was activated off the seven-day concussion list. … RHP Trevor Cahill (right knee tendinitis) was placed on the 15-day DL. … OF Jorge Soler (hamstring) could start a rehab assignment soon. … RHP Adam Warren returned to the bullpen, but could make another spot start.
Epstein said they ”had a few things going on, but didn’t get anything done” regarding trades during the All-Star break. The Cubs are seeking bullpen help, while the Rangers want starting pitching.
Perez recorded his first major league hit with a swinging bunt toward third base in the second. He had been 0 for 9. Perez was charged with five runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Former Cubs and Rangers pitcher Ryan Dempster sported giant glasses and a white wig in an impressive Harry Caray impersonation while leading the crowd during the seventh inning stretch.
Rangers RHP Yu Darvish (2-0, 2.87 ERA) returns from the disabled list and starts Saturday against Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (7-5, 3.46). Darvish is expected to throw 85-90 pitches.