The Cubs took care of business with the impressive three-game sweep of the Pirates. Joe Maddon’s team improved to a season-high 27 games over .500. The Cubs are 47-20 after 67 games and will welcome the Cardinals to Wrigley with a 12 ½ game lead in the division, which according to ESPN is the second largest lead through June 19 in the Divisional Era.
Willson Contreras provided an unforgettable moment Sunday night. Contreras received his second standing ovation of the weekend as he prepared to pinch-hit for Kyle Hendricks in the sixth inning. Contreras stepped in the box and after two throws to first base to keep Javier Baez close to the bag, Contreras saw his first pitch in the big leagues. And to say he got all of it would be an understatement.
Contreras drove the first pitch from A.J. Schugel out to center. The ball traveled 417 feet with an exit velocity of 104 mph and landed in the bleachers just to the right of straight away center. Wrigley exploded and Contreras celebrated his accomplishment rounding the bases then with his teammates. And to cap his first weekend in the majors, Contreras made a curtain call.
Contreras is the first Cubs player in the history of the team to hit a pinch-hit home run in his first career at-bat. And Contreras joined Jorge Soler (Aug. 27, 2014) and Starlin Castro (May 7, 2010) as the last three Cubs to hit a home run in his first plate appearance.
David Ross congratulated him on Twitter and said, “One of the coolest baseball moments I have ever been apart of.” Kyle Schwarber also congratulated his teammate. According to Tony Andracki, the Cubs got the ball, put in a case and it was in his locker after the game.
What will Willson Contreras for an encore?
Well, the Cubs are throwing him in the middle of one of the longest, and biggest rivalries in Major League history. Joe Maddon announced before Sunday’s game that Contreras would start Monday and his first catching assignment would be the veteran John Lackey.
Before Sunday’s game, Maddon said the Cubs would see how it plays out with Contreras behind the plate. Maddon added, “You’ll see him more often. I promise you that.”
The Cubs know Willson Contreras is the team’s catcher of the future and it all starts for him behind the plate Monday night.
The Cubs have not decided what the plan is with Dexter Fowler yet.
Joe Maddon downplayed the right hamstring injury on Saturday that forced him to leave after one at-bat. Fowler had an MRI on Sunday and the Cubs were not sure after the game whether or not he will be placed on the disabled list. Fowler was still sore and the Cubs were trying to figure out how much time he would need before he would be able to play again. According to ESPN Chicago, the Cubs will not rush him back and will see how Fowler feels on Monday and go from there.
The Sun-Times reported that Maddon will talk to Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the trainers Monday.
Maddon pointed out Fowler, and Ben Zobrist, set the tone for the offense and losing him for any amount of time would impact the offense.
- Report from The Sun-Times
- Report from Bruce Levine
- Report from Cubs.com
- Report from Comcast SportsNet
Kyle Hendricks turned in another excellent start Sunday night. Hendricks beat the Pirates for the first time in his career. Hendricks had his devastating changeup working and it kept the Pirates off balance throughout his six innings of work … The Professor schooled another team.
Hendricks set a career high with 12 strikeouts and he did not issue a single free pass, no walks or hit batsmen. Hendricks became the fourth different Cubs’ starter to strikeout at least 10 batters in a single start. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have three 10 or more strikeout games this season and John Lackey has two double-digit strikeout games.
Hendricks became the first Cubs’ starter to win a game after striking out 12 while issuing zero walks since Mark Prior in 2003. And according to Christopher Kamka, Hendricks was the first Cubs starter to strikeout 12 with no walks since Matt Garza (April 3, 2011).
Kyle Hendricks told Comcast SportsNet, “Today was just kind of a special day.”
Tommy La Stella
Tommy La Stella performed drills on the field Sunday with Jorge Soler as he works his way back from a right hamstring strain. La Stella was placed on the disabled list June 10, retroactive to June 8. La Stella is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.
Jorge Soler is eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday. Based on reports over the weekend, Soler is not close to returning from the left hamstring strain that forced him to the DL on June 7.
Pierce Johnson just cannot seem to get on track.
Pierce Johnson started Sunday in Memphis against the Redbirds. Johnson gave up four runs, three earned, on three hits and three walks. Johnson struck out one and made 64 pitches, 37 for strikes. After getting the best of the recently demoted Randal Grichuk in the first inning, Grichuk took him deep for a three-run shot in the third inning.
Johnson left the game in the fourth inning with either a blister or a fingernail issue on his pitching hand according to Randy Wehofer.
Sunday was Johnson’s second start off the DL. Johnson spent more than a month on the shelf with a lat strain.
Pierce Johnson is 1-3 in six starts with a 5.63 ERA and 1.63 WHIP (16 runs, 15 earned, 26 hits, 13 walks, 23 strikeouts, 24 innings) this season.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Buster Olney’s Power Rankings: Cubs, Rangers, Nationals, Giants, Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Royals, Blue Jays, and Mets
• The Rangers completed the three-game sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Rangers are 20 games over .500 (45-25), the second best record in baseball behind the Cubs (47-20). The Rangers travel to Wrigley after the All-Star break for a three-game series (July 15-17).
• According to a report from Hardball Talk citing Michael Silverman as its source, the Red Sox inquired on Jose Fernandez (Marlins) and Gerrit Cole (Pirates). Teams continue to ask for Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts from the Red Sox, which is obviously not going to happen. The Sox also checked with the White Sox on Chris Sale, Sonny Gray (A’s) and Matt Harvey (Mets) in the off-season.
• The Dodgers and Mariners made a deal on Sunday night. The Dodgers sent once untouchable RHP Zach Lee to the Mariners for INF Chris Taylor.
And last, but not least, click here to see the Father’s Day card Grandpa Rossy received from his ‘son.’
This Day in Cubstory
2007 – Cubs traded Michael Barrett and cash to the Padres for Kyler Burke and Rob Bowen
2007 – Sammy Sosa hit the 600th home run of his career off the Cubs’ Jason Marquis, who wore No. 21 for the Cubs at the time. Sosa became the fifth player in Major League history to hit at least 600 career home runs
2005 – Cubs released Shane Halter
2003 – Cubs traded Mark Bellhorn to the Rockies for Jose Hernandez
2001 – Cubs recorded their first victory at Busch Stadium in 13 games over two seasons with a 9-4 win over the Cardinals. Sammy Sosa hit a two-run homer and a grand slam. Gary Matthews Jr. hit a three-run homer.
1984 – Cole Gillespie, born
1978 – Kevin Gregg, born
1974 – Rick Reuschel pitched a 12-hit shutout as the Cubs blanked the Pirates, 3-0, at Wrigley Field. The Pirates put at least one runner on base in every inning.
1972 – Paul Bako, born
1968 – The Cubs lost to the Cardinals 1-0 for their fifth shutout in a row. During the streak, Ferguson Jenkins allowed one run in 18 innings and lost a game and received a no-decision.
1963 – Larry Jackson allowed just four hits to Houston and Billy Williams cracked two home runs and a double as the Cubs beat the Astros 5-0. Former Cubs’ pitcher, Dick Drott took the loss.
1961 – Gary Varsho, born
1957 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Dick Bertell
1882 – Pitcher Larry Corcoran hit two singles, a double and the first grand slam home run in Cubs history in a 13-3 romp over Worchester at Lakefront Park