The Chicago Cubs may not have the prettiest record of all the current division leaders in baseball, but there's no question that they've surged since the halfway point of the All-Star break. They went into the break five-and-a-half games back of the Milwaukee Brewers, and ever since then they've been up as many as two-and-a-half games. They're currently only a half-game up on the Brewers and could be in for a mean fight to retain their crown, but one player who seems to be up for the challenge is Willson Contreras.
It's no secret that Contreras is one of baseball's best catchers both at and behind the plate, but his surge with the bat since the All-Star break is part of why the Cubs themselves have awakened from their slumber and are looking more and more like the team that lifted the Commissioner's Trophy last October. Going into Saturday's action, Contreras had been hitting .329/.405/.686 with 177 wRC+ and 7 home runs since the Cubs the All-Star break, and he added to that tally with a 2-for-4 day against the Nationals. One of those two hits was a two-run shot that put plenty of breathing room between the Cubs and Washington during an eventual 7-4 victory.
It was another good day at the plate for Contreras, and it was a nice follow-up to the day he had on Thursday, when he hit two dingers and had six RBIs. If it weren’t for Paul Goldschmidt having a monster day of his own, we probably would've been talking about Contreras' day instead. However, he's continued to rake at the plate so we're talking about it now. There's a very good chance we'll continue talking about his exploits at the plate as the season progresses — Contreras' hitting numbers are surely getting in line with what he did over 76 games last season, and they're good enough to put him in rarefied air when it comes to the top class of catchers in baseball.
Simply put, the Cubs are coming back around in a big way, and as long as Contreras continues to play a big part in that, they could be just as dangerous as they were last October.
- Free baseball is cool, but there seems to be a trend of people complaining about it as of late. Are extra innings really all that bad? Beyond the Box Score took a look at it for us.
- It was a bad day to be this particular Pirates fan, who got hit square in the beans by a home run ball. Additionally, the umps needed video replay to confirm it, so the fans at PNC Park got to relive his excruciating pain over and over again.
- Travis Shaw got hit in the neck by a throw while trying to steal second base. The baseballs were clearly angry on Saturday.
- As if he was inspired by the efforts of Bartolo Colon on Friday night, Cole Hamels responded by throwing a complete game of his own on Saturday night.
- Matt Joyce used a homophobic slur during a tiff with a fan and now he's been suspended for two games.
- The Dodgers have now won 43 of their past 50 games. There's nothing you can really add to that. That's just absurd and the Dodgers are a machine right now.
- Sean Rodriguez is back with the Pirates after the Braves decided to trade him in exchange for a prospect.
- Speaking of the Braves and prospects, they shocked their followers when they brought up Max Fried from Double-A straight to the big leagues.