Kyle Hendricks [600x400]
Kyle Hendricks [600x400] (Credit: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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CHICAGO -- Kyle Hendricks delivered a throwback performance in his return to the Cubs' rotation and walked off the mound to a standing ovation.

The wily right-hander pitched neatly into the sixth inning, allowing one run and two hits to help Chicago beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5 on Wednesday afternoon. It was a feel-good outing for someone who was banished to the bullpen, and the Cubs hope there's more of that to come.

"Honestly, I tried to keep it so simple," Hendricks said. "It maybe was like a dream in a way, but I truly tried to lock in on process. I was just so far from who I was as a pitcher that I really had to commit to my process, commit to getting better every day, almost resetting and restarting a career."

In his first start since May 17, Hendricks struck out eight for his highest total since he whiffed eight in a win at Detroit on May 16, 2021. He didn't allow a hit until Thairo Estrada doubled to left leading off the sixth. Estrada moved up on a bunt single by Brett Wisely and scored on Heliot Ramos' fielder's-choice grounder, before Hendricks exited to that loud ovation.

"The great thing about Kyle is he never stops trying to figure it out and he's open to changing things, getting better, making adjustments and that's how you get out of that stuff and that's how you get to this place and that's how you keep going," manager Craig Counsell said. "It's that mindset that gets you to that place."

Ian Happ hit a 442-foot homer and Dansby Swanson made it back-to-back longballs to back Hendricks. Swanson also drove in two with a single in a three-run seventh, and the Cubs hung on after Jorge Soler cut it to 6-5 with a grand slam in the eighth.

"He's been throwing the ball well these last couple outings," Swanson said. "He showed up to do his job each and every day. I think there's so many valuable life lessons in that."

Hendricks has been a staple of the Cubs' rotation since he made his debut in 2014. He helped Chicago win the World Series in 2016 when he led the majors in ERA and went 54-39 with a 3.00 ERA over a five-year stretch that began that season.

Hendricks suffered a capsule tear to the pitching shoulder that ended his 2022 season and he began 2023 on the injured list as he worked his way back from that injury. He returned that May and posted a 3.74 ERA in 24 starts.

This season has been tough.

Hendricks got off to a poor start and was placed on the 15-day injured list on April 23 with a low back strain. He returned May 12 and pitched five solid innings against Pittsburgh, only to get pounded by the Pirates in his next outing.

The Cubs then moved him to the bullpen, a big switch for a pitcher whose only relief appearances to that point were during the 2016 season and when he took the loss during a 13-inning 2018 NL Wild Card Game against Colorado. But he has pitched well in his past two outings.

Hendricks threw two-hit ball over 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Chicago's loss to St. Louis last week after starter Jordan Wicks left the game because of a strained right oblique. With Wicks and Ben Brown (strained neck) on the 15-day injured list, the Cubs had an opening in their rotation.

"We had guys throwing way better than me, guys that were doing their thing and it was super unfortunate for them to go down," Hendricks said. "I know they're going to be back soon. They're gonna be a huge part of this team. I still have a long way to go. That's just one today.