NEW YORK — Chicago Cubs manager Rich Renteria doesn’t want to feed the hype machine by comparing rookies Kyle Hendricks and Javier Baez to some of the best players to ever play baseball. But Renteria is finding it harder and harder to resist the temptation.
Hendricks allowed one run and three hits over seven strong innings Monday afternoon and Baez provided the Cubs insurance with a mammoth two-run homer in the ninth inning of a 4-1 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field.
The right-handed Hendricks, a Dartmouth College graduate, is the first Cubs rookie to throw six straight quality starts since Kerry Wood did it twice in 1998. But Hendricks has been so impressively precise during his run — he has allowed 31 hits and eight walks while going 5-1 with a 1.02 ERA over the six starts, a span of 42 2/3 innings — that he is eliciting comparisons to newly minted Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
“I reserve the right not to pigeonhole him (by) comparing him to anybody,” Renteria said with a grin.
Alas, the first-year manager couldn’t help himself.
“I know it’s a short snippet,” Renteria said. “But he’s been very, very good. And boy, he is Maddux-like in his execution and his approach.”
Hendricks (5-1) walked two and struck out three in lowering his ERA to 1.66 through seven starts. He didn’t allow a runner past first in the first three innings but said he didn’t feel as if he got into a groove until he gave up a solo homer to Mets first baseman Lucas Duda with one out in the fourth.
That was the last hit allowed by Hendricks, who issued just two walks the rest of the way.
“I wasn’t that sharp,” Hendricks said. “But then I made that mistake to Duda and it kind of locked me in a little bit.”
It appeared as if Duda’s homer might cost Hendricks the win when the Cubs were shutout through five innings by right-hander Carlos Torres, who made an emergency start after right-hander Bartolo Colon was scratched so he could travel to the Dominican Republic to be with his critically ill mother.
But the Cubs tied the game in the sixth, when first baseman Anthony Rizzo greeted left-hander Dana Eveland with a double and scored one out later on a single by third baseman Luis Valbuena.
Rizzo broke the tie with a one-out solo homer in the eighth off right-hander Buddy Carlyle (1-1).
The homer that had everyone buzzing afterward, though, was hit by Baez, who launched a shot into the second deck in left field with one out in the ninth.
It was only the fifth career homer for Baez, who was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 5. Yet the Cubs are already becoming accustomed to such blasts.
“That’s difficult right there,” Hendricks said. “Not really shocking for us, but he can do that at any time.”
Baez’s homer evoked memories of another right-handed slugger — Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tucked a home run into a staircase along the second deck in left field at Citi Field last August.
“Oh gosh,” Renteria said when asked to whom he would compare Baez. “He struck the ball well.”
Right-hander Neil Ramirez threw a perfect eighth and right-hander Hector Rondon earned his 18th save with a one-hit ninth for the Cubs (54-70), who won the final two games of the four-game series.
The Mets (59-67) had just four hits, the franchise record-tying fifth straight game in which they were limited to four hits or less.
Torres, who pitched one-third of an inning Sunday, is the third pitcher in Mets history to start a game the day after he pitched in relief. He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out six, including the side in the first, which he ended by whiffing Rizzo — whom Torres struck out to end the eighth inning Sunday.
“A tough assignment, especially when he pitched yesterday,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He gave us five quality innings. We just couldn’t give him any help.”Notes: The 12:10 p.m. start made it impossible for the Mets to place scheduled starter Bartolo Colon on the bereavement list prior to Monday’s game, but manager Terry Collins said the Mets would do so today, when the Mets begin a five-game West Coast swing in Oakland. ... Mets RHP Matt Harvey (Tommy John surgery) threw in the bullpen Monday morning. ... Mets 3B David Wright, who sat out Sunday’s game after being hit by a pitch in the left shoulder Saturday night, went 0-for-4. ... Cubs LHP Felix Doubront (calf) threw six innings Sunday in his second rehab start for Triple-A Iowa. ... Cubs OF Matt Szczur started in left field, batted eighth and went 0-for-3 in his first major league start.