Before Friday’s game even began, it was Willson Contreras Day at Wrigley Field, as the Cubs catcher was honored with a bobblehead giveaway:
And then, once the game did get underway, in cloudy, windy and drizzly conditions, Contreras had the best offensive game of his career. He homered twice, including a grand slam, and drove in seven runs to help lead the Cubs to an 11-2 crushing of the White Sox, their fourth straight win.
The game was delayed about five minutes because... well, I’m not sure. After the national anthem, the Cubs intro video and the umpires and managers exchanged lineup cards, the umpires didn’t take their positions and a few Cubs relievers came to the outfield and just... stood there. About two minutes after the scheduled starting time, Contreras and starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood finally came out of the bullpen and the game got under way.
Chatwood had a 1-2-3 first and then Cubs hitters teed off on Sox starter Carson Fulmer. Ben Zobrist led off with a double, Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch and Anthony Rizzo singled in Zobrist. Javier Baez struck out and Kyle Schwarber walked to load the bases for Contreras.
Unnecessarily detailed stat:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
Willson Contreras is the first #Cubs catcher with a first inning grand slam since George Mitterwald 4/17/1974
At 5-0, the rout was on. Chatwood had a 1-2-3 second, then (and I’m opening the complaint department door, just a tiny bit) issued two walks in the third. He got out of that in part thanks to Contreras on defense. He picked Matt Davidson off second base [VIDEO] and Chatwood got out of the inning with a fly to center.
The Cubs, meanwhile, chased Fulmer in the second inning with a pair of walks, even though they didn’t score, and got two hits off reliever Hector Santiago in the third, but failed again to score.
Bryant took care of that scoring “drought” in the fourth:
That’s KB’s fifth homer this month — fifth in his last eight games, in fact.
Chatwood had allowed a run in the top of the fourth and got himself in trouble again with walks in the fifth. With two runners on and two out, Jose Abreu singled into the gap, scoring one run, but Schwarber made this terrific throw [VIDEO] to end the inning:
So Chatwood winds up with a line that looks okay... five innings, three hits, two runs, six strikeouts... except for the walks, five walks, and he’s fortunate he left with a big lead. Had Schwarber not made that play, Chatwood’s out of the game, as Brian Duensing had been warming up. This is why the walks are a problem:
Tyler Chatwood: 5 starts with 5+ walks this season.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
Nobody else has more than 3.
I mean... Chatwood had a ridiculous 7.4 per nine inning walk rate before this game... and it went UP to 7.6. This problem has to be addressed, and soon.
Anyway, Contreras wasn’t done with his big day. In the sixth:
That ball: Crushed!
Contreras' 2nd HR had exit velo of 109.6 and traveled 435 feet. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 11, 2018
And then the Cubs really took off on Aaron Bummer and ex-Cub Chris Volstad in the seventh. Do you realize it’s been six years since the Cubs traded Carlos Zambrano for Volstad? And that Volstad looked like he was about done then? He looked it again in this game, though that was after Bummer had put multiple Cubs on base through an error, a couple of hits and a walk, leading to a run on a sacrifice fly by Baez.
Tommy La Stella batted for Justin Wilson, the Cubs’ third pitcher of the game, and reached on a squibber originally called an error, then changed to TLS’ seventh pinch hit of the season. That loaded the bases for... who else on this day, Contreras!
Now, consider what a grand slam would have done here. Not only would Contreras have become the first Cub ever to hit two slams in one game, but that would have given him nine RBI. That would have tied the franchise record.
He didn’t do it, but no one was disappointed with Willson’s two-run double, his fourth hit of the game. That gave him seven RBI for the game, a career high which also tied this mark:
I was at that April 17, 1974 game where George Mitterwald homered three times, doubled, and drove in eight runs. There are a couple of interesting stories about that game, one about Mitterwald in particular. I wrote about that in the Day in Wrigley Field History series here four years ago. Worth a look.
Now, back to Contreras. There’s this:
Since at least 1913, Contreras is the first Cubs player with 7 XBH in 2-game span.— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) May 11, 2018
Willson Contreras: first #Cubs player with a 2-triple game followed by a 2-HR game since Andre Dawson May 4-5, 1989.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
Bonus: Dawson had 1 HR and 1 3B on May 3rd.
Also this:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
Willson Contreras is the first #Cubs player with 3 extra-base hits in consecutive games since Billy Williams September 8 & 10, 1968
Williams had double & 2 HR followed by 3 HRhttps://t.co/dbLJohEb2i
Willson Contreras: first catcher with 4 extra-base hits in a game since Victor Martínez (4 2B) 6/1/2010— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
First #Cubs catcher since George Mitterwald (2B, 3 HR) 4/17/1974
Willson Contreras: First 7-RBI game by a #Cubs player since Aramis Ramírez 7/20/2010.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
First by a Cubs catcher since Geovany Soto 8/26/2008
That’s one heck of a game, and two-game span. Well done, Willson. Well done. No, I don’t have any records for the most homers and RBI on a player’s bobblehead day, but I have to believe this one ranks pretty high.
Justin Hancock threw the last two innings, and had a better outing than he did in his major-league debut Wednesday, this time striking out a pair and allowing a single, a walk and no runs, helped out by a double play. He came within two batters of getting another plate appearance, too. Hancock might very well be a keeper; Joe Maddon definitely loves his velocity, and he sat easily at 96-97 in this one.
The White Sox... they actually surprise me. They weren’t going to contend this year, but they have some decent players (Abreu, Davidson, Tim Anderson) and I figured they might be a .500 club. But their pitching staff is mostly a disaster, they didn’t execute on defense and they looked lost at the plate. Maybe they are this bad. Sox pitchers threw 205 (!) pitches in this game, and that’s for only eight innings of Cubs hitting.
One more stat on the Cubs’ offensive explosion this week:
#Cubs offense:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2018
April 25 - May 6: 3 or fewer runs in 10 of 11 games
May 7-11: 10+ runs in 3 of 4 games
The weather was pretty poor for this one; it was raining lightly at game time and spotty showers continued through the first five innings, finally stopping a couple of hours into the game. The forecast isn’t much better for Saturday, though they’ll certainly try to get the game in, as they did Friday. Weather permitting, Jon Lester takes the mound for the Cubs Saturday at 1:20 p.m. CT, against James Shields for the Sox. TV coverage is via WGN.