CHICAGO -- Willson Contreras called his shot. Well, sort of.Some five-and-a-half hours before the Cubs took the field for their 3-2 win over the Padres on Monday night, the Cubs' catcher tweeted out a video of his first career at-bat -- a two-run homer against the Pirates.• Cast your Esurance
CHICAGO -- Willson Contreras called his shot. Well, sort of.
Some five-and-a-half hours before the Cubs took the field for their 3-2 win over the Padres on Monday night, the Cubs' catcher tweeted out a video of his first career at-bat -- a two-run homer against the Pirates.
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"1 year ago," it read. "Thanks Chicago."
Perhaps it was only fitting then that on the anniversary of that game, Contreras smashed an opposite-field solo jack as part of a go-ahead two-run seventh.
Contreras hopped down the line to first after connecting with the ball, pounding his chest as he rounded first and clapping his hands together in excitement as he neared third. According to Statcast™, the homer traveled a projected 401 feet with an exit velocity of 100.4 mph. It was Contreras' sixth homer of the season and his first since May 28.
"He looks like he looked when he first came up last year," manager Joe Maddon said of Contreras, who made his Major League debut on June 17, 2016. "Maybe this is the time of the year he heats up with the bat."
Still, while the home run was the highlight of Contreras' game, it wasn't where his impact stopped.
For starters, there was another play in the seventh where Contreras made a perfect throw to shortstop Addison Russell to nab Matthew Szczur attempting to steal second.
There was also his job behind the plate, where Maddon credited Contreras with keeping several pitches in the dirt in front of him, while starter Jonathan Lester noted Contreras' impressive ability to retain information and master scouting reports at such a young age.
"His growth from getting thrown into the fire last year of the best team in baseball to now being the starting catcher for us, for the defending [World Series] champions, that's a lot of responsibility," Lester said.
And even on a day when Contreras went 1-for-4, there was no shortage of praise coming from his manager, even when he made an out.
With Padres right-hander Phil Maton on in the eighth and two out, Contreras got a 2-2 fastball in the top of the zone. Contreras smoked a grounder back to second with a 105 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™, but it was the type of play Maddon wanted to see.
"He's been swinging underneath and through that pitch. He got on top of that, hit it hard at the second baseman," Maddon said. "To me, I love that at-bat, too."
Scott Chasen is a reporter with MLB.com based in Chicago.