By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) Yes, Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks was brilliant Monday night in St. Louis, just as he has been all season with an ERA now at an MLB-best 2.03. He dazzles as he does with an array of well-placed pitches that keep hitters off balance and induce weak contact.
It’s once that contact happens that the magic really begins, with the Cubs holding opponents to a batting average of .251 on all balls in play, an eye-popping number that also leads all of baseball. BABIP normalizes at .300, and the Cubs have now sustained this through 143 games, significantly outpacing the Nationals, Blue Jays, Giants and Dodgers, who are all at .285.
If you want to use your eyes instead of the data, you had to be watching Monday when shortstop Addison Russell skidded into the hole in the sixth, plowing up divots with both feet as he snared Jhonny Peralta’s hard grounder and fired a dart to retire him. Jeremy Hazelbaker was the next batter, and his foul pop was grabbed in the seats by Jason Heyward for another out, with Javier Baez ranging all the way down the line to protect Heyward’s glove from overzealous fans.
This is the Cubs’ routinely astonishing defense this year. It’s why they have given up only 484 runs and perhaps the biggest reason why they are so difficult to beat every night.