The Associated Press

16h ago

Norm Hall / Getty Images Sport / Getty

CHICAGO — For the fourth time in their seven games this postseason, Clayton Kershaw takes the ball for the Dodgers, while Chicago Cubs’ right-hander Kyle Hendricks is merely glad to be back on the mound.

Three nights after a seven-pitch, series-clinching save at Washington, Kershaw gets the call Sunday night after the Cubs rode a Miguel Montero grand slam to a 8-4 win in Game 1 of the NLCS the night before.

“I feel good,” Kershaw said, “I’m excited. It’s been a little bit since we got to do this, and Wrigley Field, it’s going to be pretty exciting.”

Hendricks, 26, has shown no ill effects since a comeback line drive clocked off the bat of Giants outfielder Angel Pagan at 94 mph drilled the lanky 180-pounder in the right forearm in Game 2 of the NLDS, forcing him to exit in the fourth inning. He led the NL with a 2.13 ERA and was second in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) to Max Scherzer of the Nationals.

“Anytime something happens to your arm, your throwing arm, it’s not ideal,” Hendricks said. “Once X-rays were negative, I felt a lot better about it. I knew it was going to be a bad bruise type of thing, get through a couple days and it wouldn’t be a problem.”

While the recent use sounds taxing, Kershaw argues he’s relatively fresh. He pitched 149 innings in the regular season and didn’t start a game between June 26 and September 9, when he returned from a layoff prompted by a herniated disk in his back to face the Miami Marlins. Kershaw was 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA in the regular season and gave up more than three runs just twice in 21 starts.

However, he allowed 15 hits and eight earned runs as Washington hit .294 against him in the NLDS. In his last seven playoff games, which omits a four-inning, seven-run outing in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS at St. Louis, Kershaw is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA (23 runs allowed in 38 2/3 innings).

In Washington last week, the Dodgers felt Kershaw’s fastball velocity was good enough but his slider “wasn’t where it has been” and the “curveball wasn’t as good as I’ve seen it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. Kershaw himself said he “wasn’t awesome.”

Against Chicago’s offense, Kershaw will need to be closer to it. The Cubs were 89-17 this season when scoring at least four runs, and even with a lineup loaded with lefties, Hendricks has not been easily chased. He modified his release point and consistently generates soft contact from opposing hitters with a heavy sinker.

Hendricks said he would fall back on routine Sunday afternoon when he arrives before Game 2. The Southern California native said he grew up a fan of the Angels — not the Dodgers — because his favorite player was first baseman J.T. Snow. Cubs manager Joe Maddon described Hendricks, who is expected to be in the running for the National League Cy Young Award, as California cool, carrying an identical even demeanor no matter the circumstances.