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The catcher celebrated his bobblehead day on Friday afternoon in grand fashion, hitting his second career grand slam and finishing with a career-high seven RBIs to power the Cubs to an 11-2 victory over the crosstown-rival White Sox in the first game of the Interleague series at Wrigley Field.

I love when he hits the ball to left-center, and when it goes out, it’s even better,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Contreras. “My take on him is when he’s driving the ball in the gap, he’s on top of his game. That’s what I saw last year. That’s what I saw today.”

Contreras’ slam came in the first inning to give Tyler Chatwood all the runs he needed. The catcher also hit a double in the fourth, a solo homer in the sixth and a two-run double in the seventh.

“I’ve been having really good at-bats and seeing the ball with both eyes and having good at-bats, working good counts,” Contreras said. “I consider myself a rhythm batter. It’s just a matter of getting that timing, getting that rhythm down.”

Just repetitions,” Maddon said when asked what the difference was for Contreras. “He’s just good. When a guy’s good, if he’s not hurt, he’ll eventually show up. He’s getting the ball on the barrel.”

Contreras was busy behind the plate, too. Walks continued to bother Chatwood, who issued five to raise his season total to a Major League-leading 32 over 37 2/3 innings. Chatwood gave up three hits, including RBI hits by Daniel Palka and Jose Abreu, and he struck out six over five innings.

“Obviously, you don’t want [the walks],” Chatwood said. “Right now, I’m kind of battling a little bit. I think I’m just battling myself now. I feel I’m still able to keep us in games.”

Contreras’ bobblehead features him in his catcher’s gear, and he showed off his skills in the White Sox third. Chatwood walked both Matt Davidson and Tim Anderson to open the inning, and on the Cubs’ starter’s first pitch to pitcher Hector Santiago, Contreras fired to shortstop Addison Russell, who made the tag to pick off Davidson. According to Statcast™, Contreras’ throw was clocked at 91 mph.

“I think it was a big play for us,” Contreras said. “Chatwood had a good game, but he was having a little trouble finding the strike zone. I’m glad I was able to pick him up. I think that was the turning point in the game for us.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Chatwood said of Contreras’ day. “He made a great play for me picking the guy off second, he got me out of a jam there, and then obviously what he did at the plate. I think we all knew it was coming, and it was just a matter of time before he broke through. It was nice to see.”

Contreras had some help. Kris Bryant smacked a solo homer in the fourth and added an RBI single in the seventh for the Cubs, who have won six of the past seven games between the intracity rivals. The White Sox still lead the series, 58-55.Was it the bobblehead that made the difference for Contreras?

“I didn’t realize that,” Maddon said of the figurine giveaway. “More than anything, I just said, ‘That’s absolutely correct. It had everything to do with the bobblehead.'”Maybe it’s because Contreras now has been married one week?”I’m really happy to be part of this team. I’m really happy with everything that’s going on. I’m happy to have my family here in Chicago and happy to have my wife here,” Contreras said. “I’m just happy about everything that’s going on.”

The Cubs had two on in the first against Carson Fulmer, and took a 1-0 lead on Anthony Rizzo’s RBI single. One out later, Kyle Schwarber walked, prompting White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper to check on Fulmer. Contreras fell behind, 0-2, against Fulmer, then took the next three pitches before he smacked a fastball into the basket rimming the outfield wall in left-center. It was his first home run since April 24.

 

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