By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs fell short in a 10-8 loss to the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field on Thursday, a contest that was as exciting as it was weather-delayed.
Amid the ups and downs that included three rain delays, nobody embodied the determination of the Cubs coming from behind more than catcher Willson Contreras, who showcased that he may be MLB’s next rising star.
The 24-year-old Contreras had a career-high six RBIs on Thursday in the type of game that makes reputations. And his continued strong play has put his name squarely in the picture for National League MVP honors. That was abundantly clear as the season passed the two-thirds pole Thursday.
Contreras’ monster game featured a solo home run in the second inning off of Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke and then a three-run shot off him in the sixth to pull the Cubs within 6-5. Contreras followed with a two-run single in the seventh inning to give his team a temporary 7-6 lead before Arizona scored twice in the eighth and ninth.
“When you do that against Greinke, that is pretty good,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Impressive when you do that against a pitcher who really knows how to pitch.”
A Venezuela native, Contreras has opened eyes around baseball. To think he is playing his first full season in the major leagues and putting up great numbers with a heavy workload behind the plate is astounding. Contreras will tell you defense comes first for him, but he now leads all catchers in baseball with 13 homers and 34 RBIs since June 19. Over that stretch, only Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has hit more homers (16).
For the season, Contreras is hitting .276 with 18 homers, 65 RBIs and an .855 OPS. His 65 RBIs trail only teammate
Getting two days off since Saturday seemed to give Contreras some extra juice against the Diamondbacks. In Tuesday’s game, he reached base three times and drove in two runs. Newly acquired Alex Avila started in his place Wednesday.
“I have never felt this good in the big leagues,” Contreras said. “I worked very hard in the offseason to have really good success this year. I have been able to make a lot of mental adjustments. That has been huge for me. When you have the plan and make mental adjustments, you can have success.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.