Hendriks scattered 3 hits and struck out 6 over 8 dominant innings as the Red Wings defeated the Paw Sox 4-2.
The 22 year old Aussie posted an 8-2 record in New Britain (AA) before being promoted on July 18th to Rochester. Despite rough starts on the road in Norfolk and Durham during the beginning of August, Hendriks has come on strong of late and evened his record at 4-4 before 9,426.
Hendriks had the daunting task of facing Red Sox 3B Kevin Youkilis 3 times tonight but looked up to the challenge. When asked about facing Youkilis, he said, "Going in there, I was like I'm not going to over-pitch him. You see a lot of guys go in there and see a big leaguer on rehab, especially one as big as Kevin Youkilis, and they just throw all off speed. I was like I'm going to go out there and challenge him and make him hit the ball. He flied out deep a couple of times but they stayed in."
Youkilis bounced out 5-3 to end the first and, for the second night in a row, Rochester's offense got on the board in the bottom half. After a Matt Tolbert walk, Jeff Bailey doubled him in and Dustin Martin followed suit with an RBI single of his own. Rochester tacked on a 3rd run after Jair Fernandez drove in Aaron Bates in the 2nd.
Rochester's play of the year happened in the top of the 3rd as Brian Dinkelman robbed Paw Sox 2B Nate Spears of a 2-run home run. Dinkelman only stands 5-11 but he timed the jump perfectly to extend himself over the wall and make the play. Hendriks said, "Off the bat I thought it was gone. Even before he came down I thought it's gone over. All you can do is just tip your cap, give him a high five, and buy him dinner."
Dinkelman was equally surprised with the catch. "I think it's the first in my life that I've actually robbed anyone of a home run."
Hendriks didn't allow a hit until the 5th and kept the Paw Sox offense at bay. He struck out the side in the 8th and exited with 95 pitches (66 strikes).
The rehabbing Youkilis was 0-3 entering the 9th but took an 0-1 pitch to left-center field for a solo home run off Kyle Waldrop. After the game, he seemed positive about his rehab and excited to rejoin the Red Sox as they enter their stretch run. "I felt good, I was running and the one thing is when you have to do it every day you have to stay at it. At least we know where the problems are and we have a great training staff and we'll make sure every day that I stay healthy and stay strong through September."
The Paw Sox were without J.D. Drew, a late omission from the line-up. Drew injured a finger in his 2nd at bat last night and was lifted in the 5th. He was flown to Boston this afternoon to be evaluated.
In all, the Red Wings scored 4 runs on the night and produced them all with 2 outs. A considerable number of fans may have shown up Tuesday and Wednesday to see Youkilis and Drew but it's Hendriks who deserves our attention.
His ability to keep the ball around the plate without walking batters (4.5:1 K:BB rate in AA, 10:1 in AAA) will serve him and the Red Wings well as they prepare for 2012. Hendriks alluded to finishing his pitches better of late and the results certainly back it up. He doesn't lose his velocity as the game progresses either as the fastball was sitting in the high 80s to low 90s all night long. Effectively mixing his curveball proved to be the difference tonight.
His willingness to challenge a Major League All-Star shows a lot about his confidence on the mound. Kyle Gibson may have a higher projected ceiling but Hendriks has command and poise on the mound that the Minnesota Twins top prospect has lacked all year.
Suffice to say, we haven't heard the last of Liam Hendriks.
Not by a long shot.