CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn't surprised at how well Willson Contreras is playing these days. Maddon saw it last year right after the All-Star break. What's been nice is that Contreras' teammates are joining in.Contreras drove in three runs, including a pair on his third homer of the
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn't surprised at how well Willson Contreras is playing these days. Maddon saw it last year right after the All-Star break. What's been nice is that Contreras' teammates are joining in.
Contreras drove in three runs, including a pair on his third homer of the series, and Anthony Rizzo continued his May surge with a three-run homer to back Jonathan Lester and lead the Cubs to an 8-4 Interleague victory over the crosstown-rival White Sox on Saturday at Wrigley Field. The North Siders have now won five in a row and outscored their opponents, 50-15, in that stretch.
Contreras has provided a spark.
"It's no surprise to me -- I think that's who he is," Maddon said of Contreras, who is 10-for-15 with three doubles, two triples, three homers and 11 RBIs in his last three games. "When he's right, he hits better pitching, he hits better pitching hard, he puts balls in gaps and over walls. He'll move the baseball with two strikes. That's what I'm seeing, and on top of that, his catching is very good, too."
White Sox manager Rick Renteria also sees it.
"He's certainly in a zone," Renteria said. "Anything that's out over the plate, he's not missing. … He's locked in right now. There's no doubt he's feeling good. He's a guy you try to be careful with, but he seems to still be able to put the bat on the ball and do some pretty good damage."
Lester appreciates what his catcher is doing. Now, if the rain would just cooperate, Lester will be fine. His last outing on Sunday against the Cardinals was interrupted twice by the weather, and the start of Saturday's game was delayed 2 hours, 15 minutes because of rain. The lefty scattered four hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out five, and he has a 1.82 ERA over his last five starts.
"Can we just not get any rain one time?" Lester said. "I'm sure in Atlanta [when he makes his next start] it'll rain again, and we'll have another delay, and it'll be three in a row."
Javier Baez, leading off for the first time this season, tripled, singled, stole a base and scored two runs, deftly avoiding tags. He showed off his Twister-like moves in the second, when he stole second, somehow reaching around the bag to avoid shortstop Tim Anderson's tag. Baez also dashed home on Contreras' single later that frame and dodged a tag at home.
"He's just so smart and so athletic that he can make up for mistakes," Lester said. "That's where you see the swim move [at second] today and running the bases. The game just looks easy to him. He has the potential to be that guy."
Rizzo, who batted .149 with one home run in March and April combined, hit his fifth homer this month in the first inning off White Sox starter James Shields. He's now batting .342 with 14 RBIs in May.
"It's just a matter of time," Maddon said of Rizzo.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Four-run first: Baez tripled to right to start the Cubs' first. Kristopher Bryant then walked and Rizzo followed with his sixth home run, launching the first pitch he saw from Shields 380 feet and into the bleachers in left-center. One out later, Kyle Schwarber walked and Addison Russell singled, and one out later, David Bote hit an RBI single to open a 4-0 lead. Shields needed 36 pitches to get through the first.
Baez was the sixth player to lead off for the Cubs this season.
"I don't mind it," Baez said about leading off. "It feels weird. I see more pitches. I get at least one more [at-bat]. For sure, I don't mind it."
Contreras, who turns 26 on Sunday, has been on fire. He has 10 RBIs in the series, which is tied for the second most in the National League for a single series, with one game left to play. He's had at least three hits in three straight games for the first time in his career, and he is the first Cubs player to do that since Bryant did so on Aug. 11-13, 2017.
HE SAID IT
"Just how dynamic it is throughout their lineup. One through nine, they execute. You know they're aggressive, they take pitches when they need to and they get on base when they need to. So, it's a tough lineup." -- Shields, on the Cubs
Kyle Hendricks will close the series against the White Sox. Hendricks has gone at least seven innings in his last three starts, including a season-high eight innings against the Marlins in his last outing. He is 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field, and the Sox will counter with right-hander Lucas Giolito.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.