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Willson's HR was big, but bat flip was HUGE

@MLBastian
September 26, 2020

CHICAGO -- Willson Contreras will have to be excused for flipping his bat to the heavens on Friday night. It had been some time since the Cubs' offense had a moment like this one to celebrate. As part of a two-homer night, Contreras launched a 99 mph fastball from righty

CHICAGO -- Willson Contreras will have to be excused for flipping his bat to the heavens on Friday night. It had been some time since the Cubs' offense had a moment like this one to celebrate.

As part of a two-homer night, Contreras launched a 99 mph fastball from righty Dylan Cease to right field in the third, helping power a much-needed 10-0 win over the White Sox. After taking a couple of steps out of the batter's box, Contreras looked into the first-base dugout at his teammates and then launched his bat into the Chicago sky.

Box score

“I didn't mean to throw it that high,” Contreras said with a smile.

On one of the television replays, the bat soared so high that the baseball -- still in flight toward the bleacher seats at Guaranteed Rate Field -- was in line with the spinning lumber. Statcast had the flip at 4.5 rotations and a 2.3 second hang time, joked the Marquee Sports Network broadcast.

Tim Anderson has his signature bat throw for the White Sox. José Bautista became a legend for his furious toss of his bat on the postseason stage with Toronto. Now, Contreras added a new entry to the long line of GIF-worthy flips by possibly setting a height record.

“I loved every second of it,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Probably not my style, if I'm playing, but these guys need a little bit of an edge.”

Behind five home runs and a stellar seven-inning outing by Yu Darvish, the Cubs reduced their magic number to clinch the National League Central division crown to one. One more Cubs win or Cardinals loss over the next two days will seal the No. 3 seed in the postseason and their first Central flag since 2017.

This was precisely the kind of night the Cubs’ frustrated hitters needed.

They scored 10 runs in the previous seven games combined, with no more than one run scored in five of those contests. In the previous 10 games, the Cubs had four total homers in 370 plate appearances. They had not belted more than two since Aug. 30, when the Cubs had six in a win over the Reds.

Kyle Schwarber’s solo shot off Cease in the second was his first homer since Sept. 1, and it snapped an 18-inning scoring drought for the Cubs. The North Siders actually had four droughts of at least 17 innings within the last 16 games.

Before Friday’s game, Contreras said Anthony Rizzo actually instructed him to do something to energize the team if he went deep. That was on his mind when he crushed the three-run shot off Cease.

“[He said], ‘Hey, if you hit a homer, just do something exciting. Just do a bat flip,’” Contreras said. “I was having fun. I hit the ball. I knew that it was gone. I knew that my team needed its swagger back.”

Javier Báez joined the Home Run Derby with a solo shot in the fourth and Victor Caratini added his first homer of the year in the sixth.

Under blowout conditions in the ninth, the White Sox sent infielder Yolmer Sánchez to the mound. He was greeted by another homer off the bat of Contreras, who set his bat on the ground gently after the opposite-field shot.

“Just a really nice approach from the group tonight,” Ross said. “Great results. They deserved that.”

Ross did not believe Contreras deserved what happened in the seventh inning.

With the Cubs holding that commanding lead in the seventh, White Sox reliever Jimmy Cordero hit Contreras with a 98 mph sinker. Contreras took his base, but his teammates shouted in disgust from the dugout. Home-plate umpire Dan Bellino ejected Cordero over the errant pitch and White Sox manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper for their ensuing protest over the decision.

“I knew it was coming,” Contreras said, “because I think they felt disrespected, which, what I did, I have nothing wrong with it. I celebrated with my teammates. I got pumped up. I wear my emotions below my sleeves. That was one thing that I did. I have no regrets -- zero regrets.”

Renteria claimed not to have seen Contreras’ bat flip and said the pitch simply got away from Cordero, who echoed that in his chat with reporters.

“It was just a bad pitch, a bad pitch to him,” said the reliever. “The ball sunk a lot, and that happened."

Ross pointed out that Anderson is famous for his bat flip last season -- a moment the Cubs manager loved.

“He flipped it and looked in his dugout -- that's what you want,” Ross said. “And that's exactly what Willson did. He bat flipped. It wasn't to disrespect the other group. It was because we've been struggling offensively and he brought some swagger. He brought some edge.”

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.