CHICAGO -- Rene Rivera was excited to join the Cubs when they acquired him in mid-August off waivers because they were his grandfather's favorite team, and the two would watch their games on television from Puerto Rico.On Saturday, Rivera had another reason to celebrate, hitting his first career grand slam
CHICAGO -- Rene Rivera was excited to join the Cubs when they acquired him in mid-August off waivers because they were his grandfather's favorite team, and the two would watch their games on television from Puerto Rico.
On Saturday, Rivera had another reason to celebrate, hitting his first career grand slam in the Cubs' 14-12 win over the Braves. And he got the ball as a souvenir.
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"It was awesome -- my first career grand slam for the Cubs, the team my grandfather and I grew up watching," Rivera said. "It's an honor to have the opportunity to do it here."
The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the second inning against Lucas Sims to set up Rivera, who launched an 0-2 pitch 387 feet down the left-field line. The ball bounced off the foul pole and into the bleachers, where a fan grabbed it. It was the Cubs' sixth grand slam this season.
"He's 90 years old, and he used to play baseball back in the days," Rivera said of the fan, who returned the ball to Rivera after the game.
The ball had a yellow scuff mark on it from hitting the foul pole.
"I was trying to just get something in the air and bring one run home," Rivera said. "I wasn't thinking, 'Hit a homer,' just drive something to the outfield and get a fly ball or base hit and drive in one and keep the line moving. He threw a curveball and it hung, and I put a good swing on it and hit it out."
Rivera came out for a curtain call and tipped his cap to the crowd from the dugout after the slam.
"That's something I'll never forget," Rivera said.
This was the first time Rivera was paired with Jonathan Lester with the Cubs. Willson Contreras was Lester's catcher this season until he strained his right hamstring in mid-August. Manager Joe Maddon said he wanted Rivera to have some experience with Lester just in case he had to catch him in the postseason. Alex Avila had been catching Lester since Contreras was hurt.
Maddon didn't expect Rivera to help his pitcher out at the plate the way he did. It was Rivera's ninth homer this season, but his first since joining the Cubs.
It's been a fairly smooth transition for Rivera and Avila, who have combined to hit .280 for the Cubs.
"The time we have in baseball, we know all the guys from playing against them, and it makes it easier because we're familiar with them," Rivera said. "We just have to know the pitchers and how they like to pitch. Here they have good report guys who help us a lot to know how they like to pitch and how we should call the game."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.