‘Special moment’: Willson Contreras slugs 100th career home run as part of Cubs 8-run inning
Willson Contreras took a brief moment to himself in the Cubs dugout, gave a slight fist pump and did the sign of the cross. He had just rounded the bases after slugging his 100th career home run, a grand slam that was part of an 8-run 1st inning in the Cubs’ 9-0 win over the Pirates.
His mind quickly raced back to his childhood in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela and the sacrifices his parents, Olga and William, made so he could pursue his dreams and reach a milestone that only two other Cubs catchers — Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett and Jody Davis — had done. Olga and William were always there — in tough moments in his minor league career when he needed someone to turn to.
“It means a lot,” Contreras said after the game. “I mean, the road is not easy, but if you put the right work in, you might get there. And today is one of those days that make me think of my childhood from where I came from and it makes me proud.”
Willson was emotional after hitting his 100th home run. pic.twitter.com/Ce6pDVuXVR— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 17, 2022
That’s why he couldn’t wait to get back home after the game and deliver the game ball to his father. He traded a few baseballs and a bat for from the fan who caught the ball. Both his parents, who visit for a few months throughout the year, are Stateside and staying with him now.
“They’re gonna cry with me because they know how hard the road was for me to get to the big leagues,” Contreras told Taylor McGregor immediately after the game. “But they’re really proud. I know they are.”
Contreras had an inkling Monday could be a big day.
“I woke up having a feeling that today was going to be a special moment,” Contreras told McGregor.
But the accomplishment is still a little unbelievable for the catcher. He knew he could one day reach the majors, but slugging triple digit home runs never crossed his mind, let alone doing so in the only home stadium he has known in his career.
“That means a lot to me and my family,” Contreras said. “Doing it in front of these amazing fans, especially with this amazing jersey, it means a lot to me.”
The feat was even more remarkable when you consider that Contreras was the leadoff hitter — the Cubs had to bat around and load the bases for him to hit a 1st inning grand slam.
But, Contreras doesn’t care where he hits in the Cubs lineup. He said as much before Monday night’s game at Wrigley Field, joking that he will hit wherever because he is “an employee just trying to do my job.”
It sure seems like the leadoff spot suits him well, however.
Contreras smacked the first pitch of the game off the right field wall for a double. He later came around to score on Ian Happ’s double.
But the Cubs offense wasn’t done there. Far from it.
In total, the Cubs tallied 8 hits and a pair of walks. Contreras came back up later in the inning and drilled the second pitch he saw on the evening for a grand slam.
So that made 2 pitches, 2 extra-base hits for Contreras in the opening frame.
Contreras raised his season slugging percentage 49 points on those 2 pitches (from .475 to .524). He also saw a 59-point spike in his season OPS (up to .931) after the 1st inning Monday.
Since 1915, only 10 leadoff hitters have smacked a grand slam in the 1st inning. Contreras added his name to the list Monday, becoming the first player to accomplish the feat since George Springer in 2016. Prior to that, it hadn’t been done since 1986 (6 years before Contreras was born):
Leadoff hitters with 1st-inning grand slam, since 1901:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 17, 2022
Willson Contreras, Today
George Springer, 6/24/16
Danny Tartabull, 4/15/86
Von Hayes, 6/11/85
Rick Miller, 4/12/78
Jose Cardenal, 5/30/69
Jim Landis, 4/19/62
Harvey Kuenn, 7/20/54
Pete Fox, 6/30/35
Bill Cissell, 7/18/34 https://t.co/SzUaHjXPMN
Contreras also became the first Cubs player with 2 extra-base hits in an inning since 2019:
Willson Contreras is the first Cubs player with 2 extra-base hits in an inning since Javier Báez on May 1, 2019 in the 2nd inning— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 17, 2022
In the top of the frame, Wade Miley — making his Cubs home debut — needed only 2 minutes to dispatch the Pirates on 9 pitches. Miley threw 7 shutout innings, allowing 1 hit, striking out 6, walking 1 and carried a perfect game through 4.2 innings.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ home half of the 1st inning took nearly a half hour as they forced a pair of Pittsburgh pitchers to throw 45 pitches.
Andrelton Simmons was among the Cubs players with a hit in the inning, in his first at-bat with the team.
Check out the full round of highlights in the video above.