Willson Contreras, Ben Zobrist Give Cubs A Boost

Contreras homered and Zobrist scored twice in a 6-1 win against the Mariners.

Bruce Levine
September 04, 2019 - 12:00 am

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As the Cubs were missing two stars from their lineup Tuesday, they welcomed the return of two other key cogs.

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With shortstop Javier Baez (thumb) and third baseman Kris Bryant (knee soreness) out, catcher Willson Contreras and veteran utilityman Ben Zobrist returned to the lineup to help the Cubs earn a 6-1 win against the Mariners at Wrigley Field. Contreras was 2-of-3 with a solo homer in the second inning for an early 1-0 lead, while Zobrist had a bunt single, walked and scored twice out of a leadoff spot that's been a weak spot of the Cubs all season.

Contreras had been sidelined since Aug. 3 by a right hamstring strain.

"It felt really great to be out there and the welcome from the players and the fans," Contreras said. "When I hit the ball, I knew it was gone and it got me excited. It was a special moment for me." 

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Zobrist hadn't played since May 6, as he had taken a long personal absence.

"It was a really warm welcome, and I am grateful being a part of this and being a Chicago Cub," Zobrist said of the standing ovation he received before his first at-bat. "Those people make you feel special out there. I am glad to back on the field doing something to kind of contribute tonight."

Both players helped bring a new energy to a Cubs offense that's too often been lethargic. While Zobrist won't be an everyday player, manager Joe Maddon will rely on his professional at-bats and baseball IQ to help spark the Cubs at a critical juncture of the season.

With the victory, the Cubs remained three games behind the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central and 2.5 games ahead of the Phillies for the second wild-card spot.

"He just always sets a great example," Maddon said. "I have seen this from him for so many years -- the quality at-bat he always works. He works that at-bat per pitch. You watch him, and he is definitely into the moment."

Contreras told Maddon that he's ready for a full slate of catching, though Maddon is likely to work Victor Caratini and Jonathan Lucroy into the mix as well so as to not push Contreras too hard too soon.

"I am pretty much 80 to 90 percent right now," Contreras said. "Behind the plate, I feel 100 percent. I want to be smart about coming back. I can catch four times a week. The manager knows that, and we talked about it. He knows I came back here ready to play. My goal is to lift up the team and help push us to the playoffs."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.