Willson Contreras At Center Of Fireworks In Cubs' Win

Contreras sparked a benches-clearing incident after a second-inning homer.

Chris Emma
June 24, 2019 - 11:13 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As Cubs catcher Willson Contreras walked toward his locker inside the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field late Monday, a television screen above showcased his emotional moment from the game that had just ended. He glanced up to relive it before moving on.

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After homering in the second inning to produce the first run in the Cubs' eventual 8-3 win over the Braves, Contreras exchanged words with Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers in an incident that led to both benches clearing. No punches were thrown as cooler heads would prevail. It all stemmed from a discussion between Contreras, Flowers and home-plate umpire John Tumpane earlier during the at-bat over the pitch framing of Flowers.

"I basically told him to do his job, I'll do mine," said Contreras, who went 2-for-4 with the homer and three RBIs. "I don't know why he got pissed off. That's all I said. You do your job, I'll do mine.

"He's great behind the plate. But to be honest, those pitches weren't even close to the strike zone. He got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that. He jumped into the conversation. I just told him to do his job.

"I don't think this is the first time it's happened against the Braves."

Flowers said the exchange with Contreras began after he was unhappy with the called second strike in his plate appearance. What had Flowers upset was the way Contreras reacted after hitting his home run.

"Honestly, it wasn't about me, it was about him showing up the pitcher in that situation," Flowers told reporters after the game. "That was more my issue with it. I got no problem with him saying anything to me, but when it starts to reflect on the pitcher on the mound and our team, that's more of an issue for me.

"It was all very unnecessary, in my opinion. The guy's a decent hitter. He doesn't need to complain about every call. We won't get into that aspect of the game we just finished. He got pretty of calls for his guys, too. So, sometimes you need to pick your battles. Hopefully that's something he'll learn as he gets a little bit older."

As the benches cleared, Braves right-hander Julio Teheran -- who was hit hard in allowing seven earned runs over four innings -- had to be restrained by third baseman Josh Donaldson as he yelled toward Contreras, who remained in the Cubs' dugout after teammate Jason Heyward escorted him there.

The Cubs and Braves previously had a benches-clearing incident during their game in Atlanta on April 1 after David Bote slid into second near Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, though no punches were thrown. Contreras then hit a home run against the Braves during the game at SunTrust Park two days later on April 3, a 452-foot shot that included a two-handed bat flip in front of Flowers.

The 27-year-old Contreras, who now has 16 homers and a slash line of .294/.388/.561 in 2019, is known for his eccentric play on the field. Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, Contreras' teammate since 2016, has come to appreciate the emotion with which the catcher plays.

"He plays with that chip on his shoulder," Lester said. "He's not going to let anybody tell him he can't do something. Sometimes, things like tonight happen. It is what it is. 

"Willy just continues to grow day in and day out. I think you'll kind of see him settle in back there where he doesn't have to prove people wrong. He just goes out there and plays. I think that's a big step in a young guy's career, especially a guy who's been doubted.

"When he gets a shot, he's taking advantage of it. I think, eventually, that chip will get a little less and less every year, and he'll just settle in to being that perennial All-Star catcher that we all expect to see."

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