CHICAGO (AP) Willson Contreras delivered in a big spot for the Chicago Cubs. With his bat and his legs.
Contreras hit a key two-run double and scored with some aggressive baserunning on Matt Szczur’s infield hit, helping Chicago edge the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 on Wednesday night.
”You plug into this guy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ”As he learns to play with his hair on fire – maybe not a forest fire, maybe just the burning bush or something, I don’t know – he’s going to learn how to control all that.”
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Chicago trailed 3-1 before scoring four times in the sixth. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist started the rally with singles, and then Jason Heyward dropped a two-out RBI single into left field.
After a passed ball by Knapp put runners on second and third, Contreras sent a pinch-hit double into the left-field corner. Szczur, batting for Jake Arrieta (4-1), followed with a grounder to shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Contreras took third and third base coach Gary Jones sent him home. Galvis’ low throw bounced off the mound and forced catcher Andrew Knapp to jump. Contreras then slid around Knapp for a 5-3 lead.
”I think that caught him by surprise, that he kept running,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. ”He would have been out by 30 feet. And Freddy just spiked the ball. Just spiked it.”
The rally handed a win to Arrieta (4-1), who finished strong after continuing the Cubs’ trend of bad first innings. Wade Davis worked the ninth for his seventh save in seven tries after being acquired in an offseason trade with Kansas City.
Maikel Franco got Philadelphia within one with an RBI single in the eighth, but the Cubs bullpen closed the door. Hector Rondon got Odubel Herrera to strike out swinging on a full count to end the inning.
With one out and a runner on second in the ninth, Davis got Knapp to fly out to center and struck out Tommy Joseph to end the game.
Philadelphia right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (0-3) allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Arrieta was tagged for two runs in the first on an RBI single from Franco and a run-scoring double by Herrera, both with two outs.
Cubs starting pitchers now have an ERA of 11.00 in the first inning, by far the worst in the majors. After the first, the unit has an ERA of 3.25.
Arrieta finished six innings, allowing three runs and striking out seven.
”It was huge to kind of just turn the page a little bit, get back into the aggressive mindset, execute, try and force weak contact,” Arrieta said. ”That was kind of the theme of the game from that point on.”
The right-hander helped his own cause with a run-scoring groundout in the second, driving in Heyward.
The Cubs’ rough starts have been even worse recently. During the first three games of this series, the Cubs have a 21.00 ERA in the first inning, but have won two.
Chicago pitchers have an 11.25 ERA in the first inning at Wrigley Field, where the team is 6-6.
After Koji Uehara’s perfect seventh inning, Rondon got the first two outs of the eighth, giving the Cubs bullpen 22 straight outs, dating to Monday. Aaron Altherr’s double stopped the streak.
Phillies: Mackanin said RHP Aaron Nola was sent to Philadelphia to undergo an MRI on Thursday on his strained lower back. ”He’s been showing that he’s getting better, but there’s still something there, so we’re going to look at it,” Mackanin said, adding that Nick Pivetta likely will take Nola’s scheduled start on Friday. Nola hasn’t pitched since April 20. … Mackanin said OF Howie Kendrick (oblique) had been hitting off a tee and could be nearing a return to the lineup.
Cubs: NL MVP Kris Bryant had two hits one night after he was lifted for a pinch hitter because of a sore calf on Tuesday night.
Phillies: RHP Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.89 ERA) will look for another solid start in Thursday’s series finale. He has allowed four earned runs in 19 innings through three starts this year.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (2-3, 5.10 ERA) will try for his ninth quality start in his 10th career outing against the Phillies.