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Heyward makes case for throw of the year

Play at plate highlights day of flashy defensive plays for Cubs
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- He ended up with a bloody nose, but Cubs catcher Willson Contreras still held on to the ball, completing a stellar double play in the third inning of Chicago's 4-0 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

After hitting a one-out ground-rule double to center field, Dodgers leadoff batter Chris Taylor didn't try to score on Enrique Hernandez's single to left, deciding not to challenge Kyle Schwarber's arm. Justin Turner then flied out to right fielder Jason Heyward, and Taylor tagged up and tried to score. But Heyward fired a perfect strike home to Contreras to get the runner.

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CHICAGO -- He ended up with a bloody nose, but Cubs catcher Willson Contreras still held on to the ball, completing a stellar double play in the third inning of Chicago's 4-0 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday.

After hitting a one-out ground-rule double to center field, Dodgers leadoff batter Chris Taylor didn't try to score on Enrique Hernandez's single to left, deciding not to challenge Kyle Schwarber's arm. Justin Turner then flied out to right fielder Jason Heyward, and Taylor tagged up and tried to score. But Heyward fired a perfect strike home to Contreras to get the runner.

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"I just envision that," Heyward said. "I know Turner, he hits the ball in the air that way a lot, and especially with a man on third base and less than two [outs], he's going to get the job done. I envisioned that, and it worked out. Great play by Willie. I feel every time I've thrown the ball home, he's gotten the guy out."

Said center fielder Albert Almora Jr.: "It was unbelievable to be a witness and to be right next to [Heyward]. I'll be honest, when the ball was hit, I was like, 'That's kind of deep.' You've got Taylor running, who is a good runner. As soon as he let it go, I was like, 'He's out.' It's unbelievable to be a part of and witness day in and day out."

Tweet from @Cubs: Loose cannons. #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/PjDu36mYB5

The play energized the Cubs, who went on to beat the Dodgers and take the series.

"That's a grand slam right there. That's a beautiful thing," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

"I don't know if there's a video of us, but I lost my voice, we were screaming so loud," Almora said. "It's such a great play."

Contreras needed minor treatment from athletic trainer PJ Mainville after the collision, then fired the ball over the roof to celebrate the play.

Heyward isn't the only Cubs outfielder who scares opposing baserunners. Schwarber, who leads all National League left fielders with seven assists, is joining the list.

"I feel they'll learn quickly on 'Schwarb,' if they haven't already," Heyward said. "You have to earn that respect, you have to earn that sense of caution from the third-base coach. Please keep running on me in those situations. I want it to happen. I think the biggest thing is we all want the ball, we all want to be ready, we all want to make the play."

The Heyward-to-Contreras play wasn't the only defensive highlight. Almora had a great catch in the seventh to rob Yasiel Puig of a potential hit, and Javier Baez moved from shortstop to second in the eighth inning and made an unassisted double play.

Video: CHC@LAD: Almora Jr. lays out to rob Puig of a hit

"We just keep making plays for our pitcher and they love it," Baez said.

Starting pitcher Jon Lester jokingly shrugged off the defensive gems.

"[Almora] comes in and dives for one, and I'm just like, 'I'm done clapping for you guys,'" Lester said. "It's expected now that these guys make these plays. It's fun on our end. It's the, 'Here, hit it. Our guys are really good out there, and they're going to run it down.'"

Video: LAD@CHC: Baez makes catch, dives at bag for smooth DP

Almora noticed that Lester didn't acknowledge his catch.

"You know what? I saw the replay of when I made the play, I immediately looked at Jon to see if he was clapping, and he didn't," Almora laughed. "I was [ticked]. No, I gave him a big hug and congratulated him for a great outing. But I need some clapping."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward