CHICAGO (AP) — A year ago, Kyle Hendricks might have been satisfied giving up a couple runs in a start.
Now, as a Cy Young candidate, Hendricks expects more from himself.
Hendricks, the major league ERA leader, allowed two runs in six innings and remained stuck on 15 victories as the Milwaukee Brewers beat the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs 3-1 Sunday.
“It definitely means my mentality is just in a different place,” Hendricks said. “This game last year, I probably would have been a lot happier with it. Resulting in a loss, I feel like I could have done a little more just with the tools I have available to me, where I’m at this year.”
Hendricks (15-8), making his first start since losing a no-hit bid in the ninth inning at St. Louis, struck out nine and gave up six hits. His ERA rose from 2.03 to 2.06 as he lost for the first time since July 26 at the White Sox.
Last year, he went 8-7 with a 3.95 ERA in his second season.
“We have not supported him run-wise a lot this year, and there’s another great example today,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He definitely pitched well enough to win, and we only came up with the one run, so it’s just unfortunate. He didn’t have his best stuff, but nine punchouts and two runs in six, pretty good day.”
Tyler Thornburg struck out Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo with two on in the ninth to earn his 11th save in 16 chances.
The Cubs have lost four of six and are trying to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. They resumed playing their regulars after clinching the division Thursday. The Cubs went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“We hit the ball well,” Maddon said. “This is one of those days (with) the culmination of the wind blowing in and their defense played well. We had good at-bats.”
Chris Carter homered and Martin Maldonado and pitcher Wily Peralta (7-10) added RBI singles for the Brewers, who took three of four games from the Cubs.
Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun got a scheduled day off after hitting two home runs Saturday.
“As much as anything, it just speaks to them finishing the season and finishing it strong and continuing to play at a high level,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Hendricks hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a home start since April 15 against Colorado. In each of his last 21 starts, he has surrendered three or fewer earned runs.
“Fastball command just wasn’t great,” Hendricks said. “So it’s something I’ve got to hone back in this week in my bullpens. But that happens from time to time. It shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment.”
The right-hander struck out the first three batters before allowing a single to Hernan Perez to start the second inning. The Brewers hit three straight singles to score two runs.
“They’re playing good baseball right now,” Hendricks said. “Their lineup, everybody is putting together good at-bats. They’re aggressive, but then they’ll surprise you at times when they’re patient.”
Carter hit his 36th home run, a solo shot, off Felix Pena in the eighth.
Tommy La Stella pinch hit for Hendricks in the sixth and doubled in a run. Anthony Rizzo missed a game-tying home run when he flied out to the right-field warning track in the seventh.
Peralta gave up a run on nine hits and struck out five in six innings.
Beyond home-field advantage in the playoffs, Maddon wants to reach 100 victories. They’re at 94 right now. “It’s a pretty neat number. I’ve never done that before,” said Maddon, who won 97 in 2008 with Tampa and last year with Chicago.
LHP Mike Montgomery will return to the bullpen after pitching as the sixth starter, Maddon said. The Cubs are expected to use a “bullpen day” during their Pittsburgh series Sept. 26-29.
Cubs: OF Jorge Soler (tight side) is day-to-day after he underwent an MRI, Maddon said. Soler could resume playing Monday or Tuesday after taking swings in the batting cage.
Brewers: After a day off Monday, RHP Matt Garza (5-7, 4.22 ERA) is to start the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Pirates.
Cubs: RHP Jason Hammel (14-9, 3.60) is scheduled to start the opener of a three-game set against the visiting Reds, who are expected to start RHP Tim Adleman (2-4, 4.21).