Prospect Contreras homers in 1st at-bat, Cubs sweep Pirates
CHICAGO (AP) Prized prospect Willson Contreras received a standing ovation as he made his way to the plate in the sixth inning for his first major league at-bat.
One pitch later, the Wrigley Field crowd was back on its feet demanding a curtain call.
Contreras crushed the first pitch he saw in the big leagues for a two-run home run, Kyle Hendricks struck out a career-high 12 in six innings and the Chicago Cubs completed a sweep of the fading Pittsburgh Pirates with a 10-5 victory Sunday night.
''It's incredible,'' a smiling Contreras said. ''I don't have the words to explain how happy I am.''
Contreras, called up from Triple-A on Friday, pinch hit for Hendricks in the sixth and sent A.J. Schugel's changeup an estimated 415 feet to center. The cheering didn't let up until the 24-year-old Venezuelan catcher hopped out of the dugout and tipped his cap.
A fan even returned the ball to Contreras, which sat in his locker.
''It's a dream come true,'' he said.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hit consecutive home runs in the third and Javier Baez added a solo shot for the Cubs, all off rookie Jameson Taillon (1-1). Addison Russell hit a two-run shot in the seventh for the Cubs, who have eight homers in two games.
Josh Harrison's solo home run was the lone blemish off Hendricks (5-6), who walked none and allowed seven hits. His previous career high was nine strikeouts.
''I never go into a game trying to do that, honestly,'' Hendricks said. ''I think today was just the changeup. That was the answer.''
Starling Marte returned from injury and had a two-run triple off Adam Warren in a three-run seventh for the Pirates, who have lost 17 of 22 and fell 15 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central.
Chicago's overall division lead jumped to 12 1/2 games over St. Louis with Contreras providing the latest feel-good story.
''I was looking for the right spot,'' manager Joe Maddon said.
Contreras arrived from Iowa on Friday and played one inning of defense. Maddon announced before the game that Contreras would get his first start at catcher Monday.
Rizzo added two RBI singles for the Cubs, who completed their seventh series sweep of the season.
Chicago jumped on Taillon after the rookie took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a victory Tuesday against the New York Mets.
''The ball was up today. He wasn't in position to get groundball outs,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''Thirty-three pitches in the first inning made him work more than we wanted him to.''
Bryant and Rizzo crushed misplaced fastballs, marking the fifth time this season they've homered in the same game.
That was overshadowed by Contreras becoming the first Cubs player to homer on the first pitch he saw since Jim Bullinger in 1992.
Of course, Contreras is still a rookie, and the team's No. 3 catcher. Once the curtain call ended, he had to get back to warming up pitchers.
''That was funny,'' Contreras said. ''After I hit a homer, they say, `I know you're happy, but you have to go back to the bullpen.'''
Pirates: Marte went 3 for 5 in his first start since taking a one-hopper off his face Wednesday against the Mets. ... C Chris Stewart - nursing knee, head, foot, elbow and rib injuries - is expected to be out a few days. Hurdle said the knee is the biggest concern.
Cubs: Maddon said they were contemplating the disabled list for CF Dexter Fowler (hamstring), who didn't play after leaving Saturday's game in the second inning. ''It would not be good,'' Maddon said. ''I think we could cover, but he's been all of that.''
Pirates C Jacob Stallings, son of new University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, started and went 0 for 4 in his major league debut. He struck out twice against Hendricks, including in an eight-pitch at-bat with runners at the corners to end the sixth.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (5-5, 5.92 ERA) starts Monday night to open a four-game home series against San Francisco and Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (8-2, 1.91). Locke has lost his last two starts.
Cubs: Contreras will catch RHP John Lackey (7-2, 2.66) in the opener of a three-game home series against St. Louis. LHP Jaime Garcia (4-6, 3.93) starts for the Cardinals.