By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was enjoying a night of rest Wednesday evening when his name was called.
As it turned out, Contreras saw his off day end in the sixth inning when he helped ignite a four-run rally that made Jake Arrieta a winner. The 24-year-old Contreras was part of an energized group of Cubs that now have won six times trailing after five frames. The Cubs rallied back from an early hole and earned a 5-4 comeback win over the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Chicago finally got into the Philadelphia bullpen, knocking out starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff after 5 2/3 innings of work.
Arrieta had pitched well enough to keep the game close, giving up three runs in his six innings on the mound. A few balls that were hit hard in the right-field gap eluded Ben Zobrist by inches, leading to a couple of the Phillies’ tallies.
After a Jason Heyward RBI single cut the Cubs’ deficit to 3-2, Contreras pinch-hit for Miguel Montero with men on second and third with two outs. He crushed a line double to left field, which drove in the tying and go-ahead runs off of reliever Joely Rodriguez. And Contreras wasn’t done.
On a groundball that Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis kept in the infield, Contreras scored from second base, continuing to run at the behest of third-base coach Gary Jones. The Cubs were lucky when Galvis’ throw took a high bounce off of the mound, allowing Contreras to slide his body head-first under catcher Andrew Knapp’s tag.
“With two out, I was looking at Jones and he was sending me to home plate,” Contreras said. “I saw the catcher waiting for the baseball and just tried to get around the plate. I did.”
Both Jones and Contreras thought Galvis would try to throw out the batter at first base.
“Jonesy did a nice job sending Willson home,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Willson was anticipating a throw to first base, so he just kept coming around. We got lucky that ball hit right on the back of the mound. Overall, we really do try to teach that more aggressive style of base running.”
The hit and RBIs by Contreras were his first as a pinch-hitter since his first at-bat in the major leagues on June 19, 2016. That first hit was a home run on the first pitch that he saw.
The game was completed with Cubs closer Wade Davis garnering his seventh straight save to start the season. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 19 1/3 innings, a streak that dates back to last August when Davis was a member of the Kansas City Royals.
Arrieta moved his record to 4-1 on the young season. Like so many other teammates, he continues to be amazed at the improvement of Contreras since his arrival last June.
“It’s hard to pick out one area,” Arrieta said about Contreras’ game. “He has made such tremendous strides behind the plate. He knows every arm we have. He knows all of their stuff. He’s just a tremendous young player who shows up every night to play. He’s a well-rounded player, and he’s only going to get better.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.