CHICAGO -- The Cubs may want to have Willson Contreras bobblehead day every day.The catcher celebrated his bobblehead day on Friday afternoon in grand fashion, hitting his second career grand slam and finishing with a career-high seven RBIs to power the Cubs to an 11-2 victory over the crosstown-rival White
CHICAGO -- The Cubs may want to have Willson Contreras bobblehead day every day.
The catcher celebrated his bobblehead day on Friday afternoon in grand fashion, hitting his second career grand slam and finishing with a career-high seven RBIs to power the Cubs to an 11-2 victory over the crosstown-rival White Sox in the first game of the Interleague series at Wrigley Field.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"I love when he hits the ball to left-center, and when it goes out, it's even better," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Contreras. "My take on him is when he's driving the ball in the gap, he's on top of his game. That's what I saw last year. That's what I saw today."
Contreras' slam came in the first inning to give Tyler Chatwood all the runs he needed. The catcher also hit a double in the fourth, a solo homer in the sixth and a two-run double in the seventh.
"I've been having really good at-bats and seeing the ball with both eyes and having good at-bats, working good counts," Contreras said. "I consider myself a rhythm batter. It's just a matter of getting that timing, getting that rhythm down."
Contreras, who hit two triples and a double on Wednesday, notched his fourth career multihomer game. Before his breakout game Wednesday, his slash line was .230/.315/.354, and it's now .268/.343/.488. He increased his OPS from .669 to .831 (a difference of .162) in two games. The exit velocity on Contreras' second homer registered at 109.6 mph, which tied his third-hardest hit homer in his career, including the postseason.
"Just repetitions," Maddon said when asked what the difference was for Contreras. "He's just good. When a guy's good, if he's not hurt, he'll eventually show up. He's getting the ball on the barrel."
Contreras was busy behind the plate, too. Walks continued to bother Chatwood, who issued five to raise his season total to a Major League-leading 32 over 37 2/3 innings. Chatwood gave up three hits, including RBI hits by Daniel Palka and Jose Abreu, and he struck out six over five innings.
"Obviously, you don't want [the walks]," Chatwood said. "Right now, I'm kind of battling a little bit. I think I'm just battling myself now. I feel I'm still able to keep us in games."
Contreras' bobblehead features him in his catcher's gear, and he showed off his skills in the White Sox third. Chatwood walked both Matt Davidson and Tim Anderson to open the inning, and on the Cubs' starter's first pitch to pitcher Hector Santiago, Contreras fired to shortstop Addison Russell, who made the tag to pick off Davidson. According to Statcast™, Contreras' throw was clocked at 91 mph.
"I think it was a big play for us," Contreras said. "Chatwood had a good game, but he was having a little trouble finding the strike zone. I'm glad I was able to pick him up. I think that was the turning point in the game for us."
"It's unbelievable," Chatwood said of Contreras' day. "He made a great play for me picking the guy off second, he got me out of a jam there, and then obviously what he did at the plate. I think we all knew it was coming, and it was just a matter of time before he broke through. It was nice to see."
Contreras had some help. Kristopher Bryant smacked a solo homer in the fourth and added an RBI single in the seventh for the Cubs, who have won six of the past seven games between the intracity rivals. The White Sox still lead the series, 58-55.
Was it the bobblehead that made the difference for Contreras?
"I didn't realize that," Maddon said of the figurine giveaway. "More than anything, I just said, 'That's absolutely correct. It had everything to do with the bobblehead.'"
Maybe it's because Contreras now has been married one week?
"I'm really happy to be part of this team. I'm really happy with everything that's going on. I'm happy to have my family here in Chicago and happy to have my wife here," Contreras said. "I'm just happy about everything that's going on."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cubs' first: The Cubs had two on in the first against Carson Fulmer, and took a 1-0 lead on Anthony Rizzo's RBI single. One out later, Kyle Schwarber walked, prompting White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper to check on Fulmer. Contreras fell behind, 0-2, against Fulmer, then took the next three pitches before he smacked a fastball into the basket rimming the outfield wall in left-center. It was his first home run since April 24.
"I don't think of home runs -- I try to pick a good pitch and make solid contact," Contreras said. "I can't start thinking about home runs. I just want to make contact as much as I can."
Cubs' fourth: Bryant led off the fourth with his 101st career home run and second in as many games. He's now homered in five of his past eight games. Bryant connected on an 0-1 sinker from Santiago and launched it into the left-field bleachers at 103.1 mph, per Statcast™. Schwarber followed two outs later with a bloop single with an exit velocity of 39 mph.
"He sets the table," Maddon said of Bryant, who is 8-for-17 (.471) with four home runs, two doubles, seven RBIs and 11 runs scored in his past five home games. "He's starting to hit the ball hard. He just plays a complete game."
Contreras is the seventh Cubs player to hit a grand slam in the crosstown series, joining Ricky Gutierrez (July 12, 2001), Aramis Ramirez (June 25, 2005), Derrek Lee (May 19, 2007), Travis Wood (May 30, 2013), Mike Olt (May 8, 2014) and Addison Russell (July 27, 2016).
Contreras is also the first Cubs player with three extra-base hits in consecutive games since Hall of Famer Billy Williams did so on Sept. 8 and Sept. 10, 1968.
And one more Contreras note: He's the first Cubs player to total four hits and seven RBIs in a game since Aramis Ramirez did so on Sept. 18, 2006, and the first to do so at Wrigley Field since Andre Dawson on June 2, 1987.
HE SAID IT
"It's always fun. Any time you have a legitimate rivalry, it's good, and it's good for the fan bases on both sides, and it's good for baseball. It's entertaining. It's interesting. I have not been here long enough, but I'm starting to catch the vibe. Even though the one team is not not doing so well, they'll be ready to play." -- Maddon, on the crosstown series
Jonathan Lester will start Saturday in the second game of this intracity Interleague series. Rain interrupted Lester's last outing twice, but he stayed in the game for 5 1/3 innings against the Cardinals, giving up two runs on six hits. The lefty is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three starts at home. He's 7-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the White Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field, and righty James Shields will start for the White Sox.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.