Revitalized Contreras Key In Cubs' Resurgence

Willson Contreras hit his ninth homer in the Cubs' 13-5 win Sunday.

Chris Emma
May 05, 2019 - 10:37 pm
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The confidence in Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is clear with every swing of the bat and dart from behind home plate. 

After a disappointing 2018, Contreras is back to being an energizing force for the Cubs. That was the case again at Wrigley Field on Sunday evening, when Contreras homered and drove in two runs while helping the Cubs to a 13-5 win over the Cardinals and a series sweep.

The Cubs have now won seven straight games and 17 of their last 22 to overtake the Cardinals for first place in the National League Central. Contreras has been a big part of their turnaround from a 2-7 start, and his early success is a reflection of his maturation, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

"There's a little bit more of a calm to him," Maddon said. "He's not as emotional. He's able to take a bad moment and file it away pretty quickly. I think that's the biggest difference I'm seeing, maturity."

The re-emergence of Contreras is clear by any measurable you look at. Entering Sunday, he had a 1.1 WAR, per Fangraphs, through 28 games, which is better than his 0.9 WAR in 138 contests last season.

Contreras now has nine home runs -- one shy of his 2018 total -- and has posted a slash line of .311/.432/.678. That's a big uptick from his .249/.339/.390 slash line in 2018. 

Contreras agrees with Maddon that the difference is in handling success and failures in stride.

"I had a hard time forgetting about bad moments," Contreras said of 2018. "This year is way different. I'm taking it one day at a time and not trying to do too much out there -- just have fun and do good things to help the team win.

"I'm not getting a big head or anything like that. I just feel good. I've been feeling good since Day 1."

The Cubs fell flat late in 2018 and lost in the NL wild-card game in part because many of their young talents regressed. That was the case for Contreras, who was vital to the Cubs' success during their World Series victory in 2016 and run to the NL Championship Series a year later.

Though the Cubs didn't make a major splash this past offseason, they still felt confident in the bounce-back potential on their roster. 

Their belief is paying off, and Contreras is revitalized this season. Suddenly, so are the Cubs.

"It feels good, it feels good, of course," Contreras said. "But it's still early in the season. We still got to keep going. Now, we got to go rest and think about tomorrow."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​