Led by feisty Willson Contreras, Cubs wallop Braves in series opener

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Willson Contreras sparked the Cubs with a feisty display that accompanied an early home run. (Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports)
Willson Contreras sparked the Cubs with a feisty display that accompanied an early home run. (Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Incited by a dramatic early-inning home run and propelled by a 5-run fifth, the Chicago Cubs (43-35) took care of business in their series opener versus the hot-hitting Atlanta Braves (46-33) at Wrigley Field on Monday night. After scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs coasted to an 8-3 victory, in which they racked up 10 hits. A solo blast by catcher Willson Contreras in the bottom of the second set the tone for the Cubs, who never trailed in the initial installment of the 4-game set.

Contreras' dinger came with some controversy, as it led to a bases-clearing altercation when Contreras and fellow catcher Tyler Flowers of the Braves began jawing at each other after Contreras rounded the bases on his 16th round-tripper of the season. During the course of the at-bat, Flowers irked Contreras when he interrupted a conversation that Contreras was having with the home-plate umpire concerning a borderline strike call. That resulted in Contreras shouting at Flowers before beginning his home-run trot, and the pair of backstops continued to go back and forth once Contreras touched home plate. The benches cleared, but no skirmishing ensued, with nothing more than warnings being extended to both clubs by the crew chief before play resumed.

Not allowing his words to speak louder than his actions, Contreras notched another RBI in his next at-bat, with his fourth-inning single scoring Javier Baez and putting the Cubs up 2-0. The inning after that saw the Cubs open the floodgates against Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran, whose downturn began when Cubs starting hurler Jon Lester faked a bunt attempt and connected on a base knock up the middle that put runners on the corners with no outs. The Cubs proceeded to score four runs without suffering an out before Teheran was finally pulled from the game. Kyle Schwarber plated a run with a ground-rule double hit into the ivy in center field, and Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo then recorded back-to-back RBI singles before Baez accrued an RBI double.

Capping off the scoring barrage, Contreras tallied his third RBI of the evening on an effective groundout following the pitching change. The Cubs led 7-0 at the conclusion of the fifth frame, and, despite a 2-run single being hit by the Braves' Nick Markakis in the top of the sixth, they never had their lead threatened the rest of the way. Making his Cubs debut, veteran reliever Tony Barnette gave up a solo shot to Dansby Swanson in the top of the eighth that pulled the Braves to within four, but current Cubs and former Braves outfielder Jason Heyward answered with a solo long ball of his own in the bottom half of the inning. In their 8-3 triumph, the Cubs were led on the mound by Lester, who struck out seven in six innings of work, and at the plate by Baez, Contreras and Heyward, who each went 2-for-4.

Atlanta Braves at Chicago Cubs
Jun 24, 2019123456789RHE
Atlanta (46-33)000002010380
Chicago (43-35)01015001-8101
W: Jon Lester (7-5) L: Julio Teheran (5-6)

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