What we learned: Kyle Hendricks is great, and Rougned Odor is clutch

It’s time to admit that Kyle Hendricks is the Cy Young front-runner. Right? No? Maybe? I don’t actually know. What I do know is that the Chicago Cubs’ starter is 15-7 with a 2.03 ERA after he took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Cardinals. He lost the no-no when Jeremy Hazelbaker led off the ninth with a home run on an 0-2 changeup. Hendricks is so good at manipulating the ball and working it around the edges of the strike zone:

“I don’t want to say I had to make levity of the situation, but I definitely had to have something distracting because I was going to some pretty dark places,” Blanck said. “I immediately named the tumor ‘Yankee’ because I hate the Yankees. And then, when I got introduced to what treatment was going to be like, it seemed very fitting to name the chair ‘Big Papi’ because he’s a Yankee killer.”

The first round of chemo began March 21. Four and a half months later, Blanck had lost his hair but not his faith, because he passed time during many of his most draining treatments by sitting on “Big Papi” at the University of Vermont Medical Center and watching Ortiz wallop opposing pitchers in one of the greatest seasons ever by a 40-year-old slugger.

“Early in the season in April, when you’ve got a lot of day games, I was always sitting there watching the Red Sox,” Blanck said. “The nurses, every day when I came in, they would put a sign up, a picture of Big Papi with a quote and tape it to my chair. I was always wearing one of my Red Sox shirts. So they all started getting into it as well. For those first several months, sitting there and reading about it and watching the Red Sox every afternoon when I was getting sicker and sicker, it was a relief. It was an awesome distraction all summer.”

Blanck chronicled his fight on Facebook and his wife, Shalagh, kept a blog. At one point, Blanck wrote that he hopes somebody, “I’ll be able to get one of those Big Papi hugs,” that Ortiz has doled out to his Red Sox teammates since 2003.

It didn’t happen Tuesday, although Blanck and his family got the next-best thing. Through friends, they were given tickets to the Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles and sat in box seats next to the dugout. They also were escorted onto the field before the game. While they didn’t get to meet Ortiz, Geoff, Shalagh and their daughters Emma, 13, and Annecy, 11, took pictures in the dugout and were greeted by Red Sox president Sam Kennedy.

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