Am I being too stingy in not calling it “The Willson Contreras Game”?
For me, although I love pegging games with player names, I try to reserve it for those games where the player not only has a huge game, but also plays the decisive role in and at the game’s conclusion. Without Contreras’s two homers or big pick-off in the 7th inning, the Cubs almost certainly don’t win that game. Then again, the 9th inning Contreras-related image is him gunning one so hard to first base on a would-be final out that Anthony Rizzo couldn’t handle the throw, and it very nearly cost the Cubs the game.
This is all just silliness, of course, but for some reason it just doesn’t fit for me to be The Willson Contreras Game. Maybe next time.
Whatever you call it, the night was a great one for the Cubs’ young catcher, who continues to develop. We’ve talked recently about the adjustments Willson Contreras is having to make here in his first full season in the big leagues. He’s not only doing the usual thing that young guys have to do as the go through the league’s pitching supply a second and third time, and those pitchers find holes, but he also has to spend so much of his time doing that very same thing: working with his own team’s pitchers to game plan against the other team. He has to work on his game behind the plate, he has to learn what his pitchers need, he has to establish relationships, and on and on. It’s a lot.
In retrospect, it was arrogant not to believe there would be an obvious offensive down period, even for a player as talented as Contreras.
He sure showed off his bat last night, though, eh?
Facing Mike Leake, a guy who’d given up just one homer all year to that point, Contreras went deep twice in his first two at bats, in very impressive fashion:
Those were both just absolute rockets – over 109 and 113mph, and with line-drive launch angles. That tends to be Contreras at his best – spraying hard line drives all over the yard, so it was very nice to see. Leake got a couple pitches up, and Contreras punished him for it.
Homering twice in the game raised Contreras’s slugging on the young season 66(!) points, from .340 to .406. His overall line is still below where he can be (.228/.297/.406, 86 wRC+), but, as I said, the adjustment process is very real, and that goes double for catchers.
Of course, Contreras isn’t known exclusively for his bat. In fact, the thing he might be best known for is doing things like this:
Scouting report on @WContreras40:
He's gonna throw. pic.twitter.com/HGozPPOQEf
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 13, 2017
That was a huge moment in the game, with the tying run there at first base in the 7th inning in the form of Dexter Fowler, who really should have known that was coming. But Contreras takes advantage of those outside pitches so well and so quickly that Fowler was out by a good five feet.
A great night for Willson Contreras all around, whatever you choose to call the game.