Before injuring hamstring, Cubs' Contreras says he's at peace with contract status

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Drew Smyly, left, talks with catcher Willson Contreras during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Chicago, Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Drew Smyly, left, talks with catcher Willson Contreras during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Chicago, Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

  • Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ, right, strikes out swinging during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chicago, Saturday, May 21, 2022.

    Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ, right, strikes out swinging during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chicago, Saturday, May 21, 2022.

 
 
Updated 5/21/2022 7:52 PM

Willson Contreras was in no mood to discuss his previous day's ejection for arguing a called third strike before Saturday's game at Wrigley Field.

"That will stay in the past," he said. "That was yesterday. I will not share anything today. I'm not going to distract my team with about what happened yesterday. I already talked to them and everything's fine."

 

The game ended up being less than fine for the Cubs and Contreras. The bullpen couldn't hold a 4-0 lead and Contreras left in the third inning with right hamstring tightness. Arizona scored 3 in the eighth to tie it and the Cubs lost their fourth straight, 7-6 in 10 innings.

In the third inning, Contreras singled and stole second. A few pitches later, he ran hard on a foul ball by Jonathan Villar, but reached for his right leg after stopping at third base. After a brief chat with the trainer, he walked off the field.

"Just going to call it a hamstring strain right now and continue to get him checked out," manager David Ross said after the game. "Precautionary, doctors checking him out, definitely something going on. We'll find out how extensive."

Contreras reacted angrily to a called third strike in the seventh inning of Friday's loss, was ejected by plate umpire Ryan Additon and angrily slammed his bat on the ground after drawing lines in the dirt.

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Cubs fans have been vocal on social media, expressing frustration the team has not signed the pending free agent to a contract extension. But Contreras laughed off the idea he could be stressed out by his uncertain future with the Cubs.

"I'm really good where I am right now," he said. "I know the fans are kind of mad because of everything that's happened. But I'm really at peace with my mind, really at peace with myself and whatever comes, I'll be good with it. I have done a lot for this team and that's one thing that helps me to keep my head up."

Frustration over the Cubs' losing streak might be a better explanation for Contreras' outburst.

"Yeah, there's a lot of times that happens," he said. "But we cannot focus on frustration, we cannot focus on negativity. The only thing we can control is come today and play hard and do the best we can to beat this team."

One silver lining if Contreras does have to go on the injured list, catcher P.J. Higgins has been on a tear at Triple A Iowa. Higgins, who played in nine games for the Cubs last year, is hitting .417 on the season and .632 (12-for-19) since May 6.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Getting Contreras more days off was one goal this season and it's worked out well with the addition of veteran Yan Gomes. Contreras was the DH and leadoff man in Saturday's starting lineup.

"I care about my job, I care about my team and if somebody want to take my bat away from me like that (on Friday), they're going to hear me," Contreras said. "But that doesn't justify anything. I've got to be better than that."

The Cubs (15-24) were cruising for most of this game. Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom hit back-to-back homers in the second inning, the second straight day the Cubs accomplished that feat. After Contreras was replaced by pinch-runner Rafael Ortega, Seiya Suzuki delivered an RBI double and Gomes followed with a single to make it 4-0 after three innings. After that, Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner retired the next 13 batters.

Cubs starter Justin Steele recorded 9 strikeouts. He whiffed a career-high 10 batters in his previous start at Arizona last Sunday.

"Their lineup has a lot of lefties in it," Steele said. "That could play a little bit of a factor into it. Over the past few starts, I've been feeling a lot more comfortable out there as far as commanding all my pitches."

Steele allowed just 1 hit over 5 innings in this game, but threw 89 pitches, which prompted Ross to go to the bullpen early. Steele has gone beyond 90 pitches just once in the majors, which happened last September. And the Cubs bullpen had been very good until Saturday.

Arizona tallied a single run in the seventh, then tied it with 3 in the eighth. With two outs and a runner on first, Ross pulled Scott Effross in favor of David Robertson, who then gave up a double to Jake McCarthy and game-tying single to Daulton Varsho.

The trouble continued in the ninth as the Diamondbacks loaded the bases with nobody out on a single and two walks. Robertson managed to get out of that mess with a force out at the plate, liner to shortstop and strikeout.

With two runners on in the 10th, Varsho smashed a ball off the wall in right with two runners on. When the throw to the plate got away, Varsho came all the way around to score and the Diamondbacks led 7-4.

The previous batter, McCarthy, reached base with a line drive that appeared to strike pitcher Rowan Wick on the right forearm. Wick was able to pick the ball up and throw it to first base (late). After a few warm-up tosses, he stayed in the game to face Varsho.

The Cubs had a chance in the bottom of the 10th after an infield single by Andrelton Simmons and ground-rule double from Villar put the tying run on second, but Suzuki struck out to end the game.

The start of the game was delayed about 90 minutes by rain.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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