Paul Skenes debut shouldn't distract from all-important Cubs weekend storyline

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

One of the most anticipated MLB series this past weekend was between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. That is because on Saturday, Pirates top prospect and second overall prospect in all of baseball, Paul Skenes made his major league debut. Skenes lived up to the hype, pitching four innings and striking out seven batters in Pittsburgh's 10-9 win.

While the attention has been on the Pirates and Skenes, and understandably so, the Cubs had something to celebrate this weekend. No, it's not their series win over the Pirates after taking two of three games. Rather, it was the return of ace Kyle Hendricks.

Hendricks had been working his way back from a lower back strain that had sidelined him since Apr. 22. On Sunday, Hendricks pitched five innings against the Pirates, where he struck out five batters, issued four walks, and allowed just one earned run on one hit. Hendricks didn't get the win, but it was a promising start for Hendricks.

Kyle Hendricks has promising start for Cubs in return from IL

This was a promising outing for Hendricks, who struggled to start the year.

Chicago's starting rotation looked suspect, besides Shota Imanaga, to start the year. While the team lost Justin Steele to an injury on Opening Day, Hendricks was a liability on the mound. Through the first five starts of the season, Hendricks carried a 12.00 ERA while recording 16 strikeouts and seven walks over 21.0 innings. Opposing batters recorded a .378 batting average, a .425 on-base percentage, and a .694 slugging percentage during that stretch.

It wasn't good, that's for sure. But Hendricks improved during his rehab stint in the minor leagues. For Double-A and Triple-A, Hendricks recorded a 2.89 ERA, 13 strikeouts, and three walks over 9.1 innings.

Instead of making another start for Triple-A on Sunday, Hendricks was called up and pitched well enough to help the Cubs get a series win. Now, we wait and see if he can carry that over into his next scheduled start, which is tentatively set for Friday, May 17, ironically against the Pirates.