Cubs

Willson Contreras apologizes to Cubs fans on Twitter and again makes his presence felt in World Series

Willson Contreras apologizes to Cubs fans on Twitter and again makes his presence felt in World Series

CLEVELAND — Willson Contreras became the first Cub in franchise history to apologize on social media for pimping a double in a World Series game.

These Cubs are trying to write their own history with a group of young players who love the game and play it with flair and a definite sense of swagger. That raw talent and those emotional sparks helped this team win 103 games and its first National League pennant since 1945. Major League Baseball desperately needs more personalities, and the Cubs are delivering that hoped-for surge in TV ratings, with Fox no doubt rooting for the drama of a Game 7.

As much as the Cubs run on adrenaline, they also don’t crash hard, bouncing back with a 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night before the World Series shifts to what will be a wild scene in Wrigleyville this weekend.

Contreras made his presence felt in Game 2 by helping Jake Arrieta flirt with a no-hitter, holding the Indians to zero stolen bases, getting on base three times and learning from his mistake the night before. Facing Indians closer Cody Allen — with his team down six runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday — Contreras hammered a 92-mph fastball and watched it fly at Progressive Field.

Contreras flipped his bat aside, took about five steps and then started to realize that he needed to hustle and follow manager Joe Maddon’s “Respect 90” philosophy.

“I swear I didn’t see it,” Maddon said. “I guess we’re setting a record for the most guys under 24 years of age. And I want to believe that (with) a lot of our youngsters — as they gain more experience — you’re going to see a lot of that stuff go away.

“But I did not notice it. I jumped out to see the flight of the ball and I saw it hit the wall. But I did not see what he was doing. So I would not have known that had you not brought it up.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

It did not go unnoticed within the clubhouse, which has already seen Javier Baez do the same act during the playoffs. A veteran Cub said something to Contreras, who posted a message on his Twitter account:

Contreras has been a quick study, absorbing a sophisticated scouting/game-planning system and learning how to work with a veteran pitching staff filled with different personalities. Maddon paired Contreras with a Cy Young Award winner — keeping Miguel Montero on the bench — and will rely on the rookie catcher with a rocket arm to help control the running game against an aggressive Cleveland team.

“He’s an energizer, there’s no question,” Maddon said. “When you talk to him, he definitely engages you. He looks right at you when you’re speaking to him. He’s passionate about his job and very bright.”

Lesson learned: When Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis misplayed a groundball with two outs in the fifth inning, Contreras sprinted to first base and reached safely on the error. That pushed Bryan Shaw — Cleveland’s second of six relievers out of the bullpen — to keep working. Back-to-back walks to Jorge Soler and Addison Russell then forced in an insurance run that made it 5-0.

“I want to compete,” Contreras said. “It feels good when you win the (battle) against one of the best closers in the big leagues. (But) I was wrong. My first thought was get the phone, tweet it out. I knew it was my fault. But it won’t happen again.”

With essential contributions from Baez (NL Championship Series co-MVP) and Contreras (9-for-25, .949 OPS in playoffs), the Cubs have obliterated the narratives about this team playing too tight and worrying about what happened in the past and expecting something to go wrong.

“We all are like brothers,” Contreras said. “We support each other. Either way, Americans or Latin players, we are one team. We’re able to be ourselves because of that confidence that they give us. Maddon gives you the confidence to go out there and play your baseball and do what you got to do.

“That’s important for us — feel freedom.”

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

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USA TODAY

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

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NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, we get to know Kelly Crull. Kelly tells Luke Stuckmeyer about her love of bowling growing up, why she became a reporter and some of her favorite moments covering the Cubs.

01:00 Kelly's love of tennis at an early age

04:00 Following basketball while growing up in Indiana

06:00 Possible tennis showdown between Kelly and Megan Mawicke

09:30 Kelly talks about working in London & interviewing J.K. Rowling

14:00 When did she decide to become a reporter?

15:00 What is her favorite food?

16:00 Kelly's go-to karaoke song

18:00 Kelly's favorite NBA story (it involves Kevin Durant)

21:00 Favorite moments covering the Cubs

24:00 Dealing with the weather at Wrigley Field

28:00 Something we don't know about Kelly

31:00 What does Kelly enjoy watching at home the most?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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