Willson Contreras started getting emotional in the dugout after he crushed a first-inning grand slam Monday night.
The slam punctuated an eight-run first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, all the offense the Chicago Cubs needed in a 9-0 win at Wrigley Field. Left-hander Wade Miley locked down the Pirates lineup, tossing seven scoreless innings and allowing just one baserunner for the Cubs’ third straight victory.
Contreras’ fourth career grand slam was bigger than what it meant within the context of the game. It was the 100th home run of Contreras’ career, a milestone that prompted emotional thoughts in the dugout of the Venezuelan native’s winding baseball journey.
“The whole thing that I went through in the minors came to mind,” Contreras said. “I mean, the road is not easy, but if you put the right work in, you might get there. Today is one of those days that made me think of my childhood, where I came from. It makes me proud.”
Contreras jumped a first-pitch hanging curveball from Pirates right-hander Bryse Wilson for the 422-foot grand slam. After the game, he received his 100th home run ball from the fan who caught it, exchanging a couple of balls and a bat and taking some photos with the fan.
Contreras plans to give the memento to his dad, Wuiliam.
“He knows how hard we work to get to the big leagues and there was a lot of calls during the minor leagues, a lot of frustration, a lot of obstacles that were in my road,” Contreras said. “But he was a support. He and my mom (Olga) were there all the time and this is for them.”
Contreras’ 100th home run was notable on multiple levels:
- He became the third Cubs catcher to reach the mark, joining Gabby Hartnett (231 homers) and Jody Davis (122).
- According to Elias Sports Bureau, Contreras — who led off the first with a double — is the first Cub with a grand slam and an extra-base hit in the same inning since Wildfire Schulte on Aug. 16, 1911.
- Contreras is one of just 10 leadoff hitters since 1901 with a first-inning grand slam. George Springer, in 2016 for the Houston Astros, is the only other player to accomplish the feat in the last 35 years.
“Unbelievable, man,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “He’s probably one of the better players in this game, and you can see when he gets hot, it’s not just like a couple of base hits. It’s like there’s no stadium that can hold him. So it’s nice to have him on our side.”
The Cubs sent 13 batters to the plate in the first with three of their eight hits going for extra bases. Ian Happ, Gomes, Andrelton Simmons and Rafael Ortega each recorded an RBI before Contreras’ grand slam.
Watching Contreras’ special moment reminded manager David Ross of his 100th career home run, which he hit in 2016 at Wrigley during the last of his 15 big-league seasons. Ross laughed when noting how it took him a lot longer to hit the mark than Contreras, who just turned 30 in his seventh season.
“He’s got to do a lot of cool things early on in his career, and it’s why he’s such a special player,” Ross said.
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Miley didn’t need any more offensive support after the eight-run first. He utilized his natural quick pace and an aggressive approach that allowed him to rack up outs with an efficient pitch count.
Miley tallied six strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter after issuing five walks in three innings during his season debut Tuesday in San Diego.
“I mean, guys know what I’m going to do,” Miley said. “I’m going to throw stuff in hard and soft away. But I have to be able to command it.”
Miley’s lone baserunner came on Michael Chavis’ two-out single in the fifth. Cubs fans booed Chavis as he reached first base after he stepped out of the box twice during the at-bat. The second time call frustrated Miley because he was already going into his delivery when plate umpire Dan Bellino stopped him to award Chavis’ request.
The Pirates second baseman hit the next pitch into left to end Miley’s perfect game.
“The second one was a little late,” Miley said. “I’m already in my leg kick when I hear (Bellino) start screaming. You don’t have to give him time, so I was just letting Dan know that I understand they call time a lot but you don’t have to give it to him.
“I‘m working quick, I’m coming at you, and if you want to step out, step out — I’m going to keep doing it, I don’t really care.”