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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester holding down the front end of the rotation, the Chicago Cubs were already in good shape to make a playoff run in the fall.
Kyle Hendricks is almost certain to be a big part of that as well, especially if he keeps pitching like he has the past three months.
Hendricks added to his already impressive season with another strong outing, pitching into the eighth inning for his fifth win since June to help the Cubs beat the Oakland Athletics 3-1 Sunday and complete a three-game sweep.
"I think he can be effective any time," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "The gun doesn't say a big number but after those changeups and the curve ... if he elevates at 90, I promise you, and you can see the reaction of the hitters, that 90 is a lot quicker than it reads on a scoreboard."
Hendricks (11-7) was dominant against an A's team that lost for the eighth time in nine games, Chicago's right-hander allowed three hits over 7 1/3 innings, struck out four and retired 17 straight before Marcus Semien's one-out home run in the eighth.
Hendricks lowered his ERA to 2.17, second-lowest in the majors among qualifiers behind the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
"When you're rolling like this you try to stay in that same mindset, keep doing your same work," Hendricks said. "I just fell behind Semien 3-1 and said, 'Here it is,' and he hit it."
Pedro Strop retired two batters and Aroldis Champan pitched the ninth for his third save since arriving in a trade from the New York Yankees on July 25.
Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler both homered off A's starter Sean Manaea (3-7). Bryant's home run was his 27th this season, one more than the two-time All-Star had in 2015 when he was the NL's rookie of the year.
The Cubs' seventh straight win improved them to a major league-best 69-41 and marked their 10th series sweep this season. That topped their mark from a year ago, and increased their lead in the NL Central to 11 1/2 games over St. Louis.
Bryant and Soler finished with two hits apiece for the Cubs. Bryant homered leading off the sixth while Soler — who homered in the series-opener Friday after being activated from the disabled list earlier in the day — hit his seventh home run this season leading off the seventh.
Anthony Rizzo added an RBI double in the eighth.
The A's had not scored in 19 consecutive innings before Semien hit his 23rd home of the year, a towering solo shot that ended Hendricks' day.
"We couldn't do enough offensively to put any pressure on them," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "We needed to score more runs to give (the starters) some help.
LEAVING THEM ON
The Cubs missed numerous chances to break the game open. Wilson Contreras and Javier Baez struck out to end the second after Chicago put runners on the corners. The Cubs loaded the bases with no outs in the third but failed to score, then stranded three more runners on base in the eighth. "Their pitcher escaped a lot of moments but he did have really good stuff," Maddon said. "We had a chance to score many more runs than we did."
Cubs: Soler handled the DH duties in all three games against the A's but that will change when Chicago opens a two-game series against the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. Soler will be back in the outfield, most likely in left where he has started 34 games this season.
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray was placed on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. It's the second stint on the DL for Gray, who was pulled from his start against the Cubs on Saturday after only five innings. ... Chris Smith, a right-handed reliever, was called up from Triple-A Nashville to replace Gray on the roster.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (8-7) pitches the opener against the Angels. Lackey has one win in his last two starts after a five-game losing streak.
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (7-7) faces the Orioles on Monday at the Coliseum. He has been Oakland's most consistent pitcher over the past two months, with six wins in his previous 12 starts.
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