CINCINNATI — The rosters have changed, but the Cubs’ desire to beat the Mets still lingers, according to Kyle Hendricks.
“We’ve got a little chip on our shoulders,” Hendricks said Wednesday after pitching the Cubs to a 9-2 victory over the Reds to complete a three-game sweep. “We remember what happened last year.”
The Mets swept the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, and now the Cubs get a chance to gauge how they’ve addressed their shortcomings that surfaced in October.
The Cubs are scheduled to face hard-throwing Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in this four-game series that starts Thursday night at Citi Field.
The Mets’ power pitchers, with a sprinkling of off-speed pitches early in counts, baffled the Cubs’ hitters in the NLCS.
This year, the Mets, like the Cubs, are coping with injuries to some of their key players and struggles by some of their pitchers.
But, “I don’t even think about connecting those dots from last year,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Go play.”
The Cubs’ main concern is sustaining the momentum they built in sweeping the Reds.
Ben Zobrist, 35, gave everyone a wake-up call after Tuesday night’s 15-inning win with a bunt single, and Anthony Rizzo’s drive caromed off Billy Hamilton for a three-run inside-the-park homer in the first inning.
That was plenty of support for Hendricks, who preserved most of a fatigued bullpen with 6 2/3 innings. Javier Baez, 23, stood out among the defenders by turning a dazzling double play in the fifth. Zobrist, who moved to right, nailed Joey Votto at home plate with a strong throw to end the third.
Rookie Albert Almora Jr. made a diving catch to end the seventh, three innings after hitting his first major-league home run.
And Willson Contreras reached base safely in his 11th consecutive game by hitting an RBI double in the third. He also made a strong throw to cut down Adam Duvall on a steal attempt to end the eighth.
Contreras survived a scare when he got hit below the midsection by a foul tip and danced around the infield grass in pain before finishing the game.
“A bunch of babies played in that game, and they did a wonderful job,” Maddon said.
Shortstop Addison Russell, who hit his 10th home run in the fourth to snap an 0-for-10 slump, said he looked forward to the Mets series after missing the NLCS because of a strained hamstring.
“It’s good for us to see hopefully a team that we’ll be seeing in the playoffs,” Russell said. “They’ve got a great pitching staff. I know they’ve got some bangers in the lineup.”
Veteran reliever Pedro Strop, however, downplayed the Mets series.
“I feel like anyone we face, we’ve got to play with the same intensity,” he said. “I don’t think any team in the major leagues is weaker or stronger than the other. If you think that, that’s when you get beat.”
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