CHICAGO -- It just wouldn’t be a Brewers-Cubs series without a little late drama.
The teams’ benches briefly cleared in the bottom of the ninth inning of Milwaukee’s 4-0 win at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night after just-promoted reliever Brad Boxberger struck Cubs catcher Willson Contreras on the left arm with a 94.1 mph fastball leading off the frame. Under normal circumstances, it might not have created a stir, but Contreras had just been hit on the helmet by a 93 mph fastball from Brewers reliever Devin Williams the night before.
Contreras immediately took issue, holding up two fingers toward Boxberger before directing his gaze to the Brewers' dugout. After players spilled onto the field, order was restored and Boxberger completed the game with a pair of grounders, the first good for a slick double play.
“I think he just took exception to getting hit in the head yesterday, and then up around the shoulder, elbow area,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It's just scary right now. At some point, you have to be better. You can't just continue to try to pitch in and hit guys. You've got to be better.”
Said Cubs outfielder Ian Happ: “That's a difficult situation. You get hit in the head the night before, up and in again, shoulder area. I mean, nobody wants to get hit with anything, let alone 95 up and in. It's frustrating for him, I'm sure. Obviously, as his teammate, you just don't want to see baseballs up around the head, neck region.”
Contreras has been hit by a lot of pitches in his career, especially recently, and especially against the Brewers. He was hit by pitches 14 times during the shortened 2020 season, most in the Majors. In his last 11 games against the Brewers, Contreras has been hit six times now.
It could have been seven. During a sixth-inning at-bat against Brewers reliever Brent Suter, Contreras appeared to lean into a pitch that was called a strike on the inside corner.
“I understand why Contreras was upset,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It was one of those instances where the teams were not upset, I guess is the best way to say it.”
These teams are seeing a lot of each other in the opening month. They play a series finale on Wednesday at 1:20 p.m. CT, then meet again next week at American Family Field in Milwaukee for three games from Monday-Wednesday, then three more back at Wrigley Field from April 23-25.
“It's obviously not intentional,” said Brewers infielder Travis Shaw, who finished the game at first base and met Contreras there as play resumed. “At the same time, he did get hit in the head last night, so I kind of understand some frustration. We're not trying to hit him. It's 4-0. But when you get hit in the head the night before and then you get hit again, I can understand the tempers and the frustration.”