Willson Contreras was hit by a Brandon Woodruff pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game.
This is not an unusual event for Willson. It was the seventh time he’d been hit by a pitch in the last 13 games he’d played against the Brewers, dating back to last summer.
In the eighth with a runner on base, Willson decided he’d had enough [VIDEO].
That ball was absolutely crushed!
And as you can see in the video, Willson got in a bat flip and also was shown firing up his teammates in the dugout after the two-run shot, which was the difference in the Cubs’ 3-2 win over the Brewers. The victory ended the Cubs’ three-game losing streak.
Just before the game started, bad news came. Kyle Hendricks, the scheduled starter, was scratched because he wasn’t feeling well. Given the four Cubs players recently placed on the COVID-19 list, this is not good news. There’s no word at this time as to whether Hendricks being under the weather is COVID-19 related, but... the Cubs will have to watch this carefully.
Alec Mills, whose last start against the Brewers in Milwaukee resulted in a no-hitter last September, was pressed into service as the starter at the last minute. Mills did an excellent job. He threw four innings, got several outs on weak contact, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just two hits and two runs. He made just one mistake, which Luis Urias smashed for a two-run homer with a runner on base.
Personally, I thought he could have gone longer — Mills threw only 41 pitches in his four innings and seemed to have barely broken a sweat. He got some help from his defense, particularly this nice sliding grab by Jason Heyward in the third [VIDEO].
The Cubs had reduced the deficit to 2-1 on this sacrifice fly by Kris Bryant in the fourth [VIDEO].
In the fifth, though, with a runner on base and one out, David Ross opted to lift Mills for pinch-hitter David Bote. Bote singled, but the Cubs could not score.
And the Cubs’ pen did some excellent work over the last five innings of the game. Ryan Tepera, Rex Brothers, Pedro Strop, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel combined for five shutout innings, allowing one hit and four walks, with five strikeouts.
Tepera got involved in the Cubs/Brewers hit-batter kerfuffle when he threw a 95 mile per hour fastball behind Brandon Woodruff in the fifth [VIDEO].
I’m not real good at reading lips but it looks like Woodruff says, “Fair enough” to Tepera. Benches were warned and that was the end of that for the night. Really, this hit-batter thing between the Cubs and Brewers needs to stop — I’m not quite sure how it got started, but that makes 10 Brewers batters hit by Cubs pitchers since the beginning of 2020 and 15 Cubs hit by Milwaukee hurlers. In both cases that’s more HBP than for any other team in that time frame.
The game went to the eighth with Milwaukee still leading 2-1. With one out, Ian Happ singled off Brent Suter, who’s usually very tough on Cubs hitters, and Contreras followed with his homer. Go watch the video again — you can see Willson “shushing” Brewers fans. Here’s his message:
Willson Contreras on shushing Brewers fans after his go-ahead HR: "It feels good to shut up people. If you want to boo me, boo me. I don't really care. But don't get sensitive when I do something like that. ...They picked the wrong guy to throw at. That was a message sent." #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 14, 2021
Then it was up to Cubs relievers to finish things off. Chafin, who had a rough outing Monday, was much better in this one, though he walked Keston Hiura and hit Travis Shaw with two out. Kimbrel was then summoned for another multiple-inning save, his second within a week’s time. He got Avisail Garcia to hit into a force play to end the eighth, then took care of things in the ninth despite issuing a two-out walk to Luis Urias, the first baserunner Kimbrel had allowed this year.
That’s another strong, efficient save for Kimbrel, four outs on 19 pitches (11 strikes). With an off day Thursday he should be available Wednesday afternoon if needed.
I also wanted to give props to Strop, who made his Cubs “re-debut” with a scoreless inning Tuesday. Strop allowed an infield hit and a walk, but got two outs on ground balls and the other on a strikeout and looked really good. His fastball sat comfortably at 93 and his slider was working well. He looks 100 percent healthy and in great shape and I believe Pedro will be a solid addition to the 2021 Cubs bullpen.
The scratching of Hendricks from this start is concerning, especially, as noted, when several Cubs are already on the COVID-19 list. The team said this is all being done out of an “abundance of caution,” and I hope that’s all it is:
Ross noted that Hendricks' COVID-19 test results came back negative. He's day to day, and it's "wait and see" for possible IL situation. Cubs will also wait to reassess rotation after the Thursday off-day.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 14, 2021
So, if Hendricks is good to go, sounds like he could pitch in ATL series.
The Cubs have yet another shot at a series win Wednesday afternoon, and if they get it, that would complete a .500 road trip when they really haven’t hit well at all, though things were somewhat better Tuesday. Jake Arrieta, who has been solid so far in 2021, gets the start for the Cubs and Corbin Burnes will go for Milwaukee. Game time is 12:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Brewers market territories). Today’s game preview will post at 11 a.m. CT.