Contreras' 445-foot shot lifts Cubs to win

June 2nd, 2021

CHICAGO -- Before exiting the batter's box on Tuesday night, Willson Contreras gave a quick flick of his right wrist, sending his bat into a furious flip to the dirt. The baseball he just bruised in the fifth inning was on its way to the bleachers.

It was an emphatic moment in another statement win for the Cubs, who opened their daunting June slate with a 4-3 victory over the Padres. Contreras' two-run, go-ahead blast off lefty Ryan Weathers soared a projected 445 feet and sent the Wrigley faithful into a frenzy.

"It's a great test for us," Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks said. "We're just taking it one game at a time. I think we're aware of what we have in front of us."

Consider the Padres the first of many tests for a Chicago squad that has already been challenged in recent weeks. The win over San Diego on Monday wrapped up a 19-win May for the injury-riddled Cubs and the victory Tuesday sealed an important series win.

The Cubs entered June in sole possession of first in the National League Central for the first time this season, and the timing could not have been better. Combined, Chicago's opponents in June had a .564 winning percentage through the season's first two months.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said it is crucial for the club not to get "caught thinking ahead" right now.

"We all do it," Rizzo said. "But, you've got to stay in the moment. I think that's what good teams do, is they make sure we all just stay in the moment."

Good, October-bound teams also rely on depth the way Chicago has over the past several weeks.

The latest win provided the latest example in third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Since being summoned from Triple-A Iowa to assist the depleted roster (12 players are currently on the injured list), all Wisdom has done has been launch four homers through eight games.

In the second inning on Tuesday night, Wisdom worked the count full against Weathers and then launched a two-run homer to left field. That came after a two-homer showing one game earlier. Another recent call-up, infielder Sergio Alcántara, added two hits in his first start at second base.

Wisdom and Alcántara are helping buy time for Matt Duffy, Nico Hoerner and David Bote -- each shelved at the moment -- to get healthy. At the same time, Kris Bryant has continued to move around the outfield, while Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick prep for a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa.

"It's been everybody," said Hendricks, who logged a quality start in Tuesday's win. "Everybody that's come up is contributing."

The Cubs need that trend to continue, too.

After the current series against the Padres, Chicago embarks on a West coast swing through San Francisco and San Diego. There are 18 road games in all in June, which also features stops to play the Dodgers, Mets and Brewers.

Rizzo returned to the lineup on Tuesday after a bout with a back issue. Heyward and Marisnick could be back during the upcoming road trip. More on the list of walking wounded could rejoin the active roster in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Rizzo said all the recent success in the face of so many setbacks has helped the Cubs "build and believe."

"We're developing into a really good team," he said. "And that's a good feeling."

The 10 home games in June include games against the rival Cardinals, plus sets against Miami and Cleveland. The Cubs have thrived at home (20-10) so far this season, and the advantage seems to be growing as more fans are permitted to fill the Friendly Confines.

"The crowd the last two days has been amazing," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It's really fun to be a part of and have fans back in the stands at that capacity [60 percent]. Their energy, you can definitely feel it."

There were light "M-V-P!" chants during Wisdom's at-bats by fans enjoying his moment in the spotlight. The ballpark felt like a full house when closer Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth to set off Wrigley's celebratory sing-a-long.

And, yes, the crowd roared with delight when Contreras sent his bat spiraling through the air after his blast.

It was an ideal way for the Cubs to begin a gauntlet of a month.

"Being in first place obviously is the goal," Ross said. "And I'm happy for that. But, we've got a lot of games ahead of us against so many great teams. We just try to stay focused."