CHICAGO — Willson Contreras was not putting a finger to his lips and shushing anyone on Saturday. No, the Cubs catcher was welcoming the noise at Wrigley Field that his bat was creating.
And the Cubs finally made a lot of noise.
Contreras launched a home run in each of his first two plate appearances against the Braves, igniting an offensive outburst that paved the way for a 13-4 rout. Kris Bryant also cleared the Friendly Confines’ fence twice in the kind of team-wide offensive breakout Chicago had been craving over the season’s first two-plus weeks.
“He seems to be very passionate right now,” Bryant said of Contreras. “And that’s saying something, because Willson’s always passionate. It’s just really fun to see him go out there and just care so much and have some success, too.”
The Cubs set season highs in runs scored, hits (14), extra-base hits (nine) and home runs (six), following a six-game stretch in which they crossed the plate 11 times total. Javier Báez and David Bote also homered for the North Siders, but it was Contreras who got the afternoon rolling.
Chicago’s previous season single-game bests were five runs scored, 11 hits, five extra-base hits and three home runs.
“These guys have put in the work,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Today was definitely a positive, and a nice little, ‘OK, relax.’ We got home runs. We got doubles. We got guys hitting the ball all over the yard. It was fun.”
In the third inning, Contreras’ second blast off Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa opened what developed into a four-run outpouring that pushed the North Siders to a 6-0 lead. The old adage that hitting is contagious certainly seemed true when Báez capped off that frame with a three-run blast of his own.
Two innings later, Bryant and Bote went deep — with two-run and three-run homers, respectively — to put the game out of reach. Bryant then followed an Anthony Rizzo triple with another two-run blast in the sixth, giving the third baseman more homers (five) than he had in all of 2020 (four).
This marked the 28th time since at least 1901 that at least two Cubs players had a multihomer showing in the same game.
“It is cliche, but I do think, to an extent, hitting is definitely contagious,” Bryant said. “I was talking with Rizzo about that. We think the same way. But, yeah, those first two at-bats [by Contreras], man, it looked great.”
Bote also contributed an RBI double in the second that snapped an 0-for-17 funk with runners in scoring position for the Cubs, dating back to Monday. Overall on Saturday, Chicago went 5-for-11 with RISP.
Contreras got the Cubs going with an opposite-field homer off a low-and-away slider from Ynoa in the first. That gave the hot-hitting Cubs catcher a home run in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.
The two-homer showing also represented Contreras’ ninth career multihomer game. His last came on Sept. 25, 2020, against the White Sox.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the game, for me,” Ross said. “Just on the catching side, offensively, defensively, the way he’s worked. … I think Willson’s a stud.”
The first home run in his current hot streak came on Tuesday, when Contreras crushed a Brent Suter pitch to propel the Cubs to a dramatic 3-2 win over the rival Brewers. As the catcher rounded the bases after that eighth-inning shot, he shushed the Milwaukee crowd.
Contreras also homered in his next game on Friday, when his shot off Braves righty Kyle Wright was one of Chicago’s only offensive highlights. He was also hit by a pitch in the game, as he was on Tuesday.
All the inside offerings — either knocking him back or hitting him — have been a source of frustration for Contreras. He led the Majors in hit-by-pitch with 14 in 2020 and entered Saturday with a league-high five this season.
“We know when it’s intentional. I don’t think Willy’s stuff was intentional,” Báez said. “But, he got hit a lot. So, he had something to say.”
Contreras has been getting even with his bat.
His third-inning homer off Ynoa came against a 97 mph fastball low in the zone, and the ball rocketed out at 110.5 mph to center. The ball dropped into the Wrigley Field greenery and gave Contreras four homers in a span of eight plate appearances.
Contreras’ performance on Saturday increased his season OPS to 1.087 from .927 and gave him a 187 wRC+ on the season, indicating he has been 87 percent above MLB average. For Bryant, his day ballooned his season OPS to 1.026 and increased his wRC+ to 167 on the campaign.
“That’s what we feel like this lineup’s capable of any given night,” Ross said. “It’s well-deserved, well-needed — a lot of these guys to get their numbers to jump up there.”
For one game, the entire lineup shushed critics.
“It feels like it was just bound to happen,” Bryant said. “ I like to look at baseball as a law-of-average game. And we just weren’t getting it done. And now, we did today.”