Contreras, Cubs win battle of brothers
When Cubs starting pitcher Justin Steele went over the Atlanta batters with catcher Willson Contreras before Saturday's game, Steele was told he was on his own when it came to Contreras' younger brother William.
"I told Justin, 'If he gets a base hit, it won't be on me,'" Willson said. "Call your own (pitches)."
As it turned out, both Contreras brothers had good days at the plate, while the Cubs cooled off Atlanta for the second straight game. All nine Cubs starters collected hits in the 6-3 victory at Wrigley Field.
Willson Contreras went 3-for 5 with a double. William was 2-for-4 with a double. But it wasn't easy after Willson gave his brother in catching a hug as he stepped to the plate in the first inning.
"I almost got in tears in my first at-bat," he said. "The best moment of our life. Everything we went through to get here, now we get to do it together. Seeing my brother play behind the plate makes me proud, because the last time I saw him was in Little League. Playing against him was a special moment."
Contreras fell behind in the count 0-2, but eventually singled to right. Later, with runners on the corners, Contreras stole second base. There was no throw, but at least on the stat sheet, Willson got the best of his brother.
"They gave me the green light. That's 1-0," Willson said with a laugh.
There's roughly a six-year age difference between the two brothers, so they didn't play on the same teams growing up. Willson set off to join the Cubs organization and generally missed out on William's baseball career, until he debuted with Atlanta in 2020. They currently rank 1-2 in home runs by National League catchers.
Parents, William Contreras and Olga Castillo, as well as older brother Wilmer, were in attendance Saturday.
"It's something special for sure," William told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If it's a dream come true for us, what's it going to be like for them? For them especially, with all the sacrifices they made for us as we were growing up, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they came to tears when the moment finally happens."
The brothers text each other most every day, Willson said. He was asked how they managed to stay so close with the significant gap in age.
"I think having my mom and dad teaching us the right way," Willson said. "Because Latin culture is everything about family. We move around as family and we try to do as much as we can.
"I think our love for baseball is since we were born. I started playing when I was three years old, same with my brother. My thought was to get to the big leagues and take care of my family. It wasn't easy but it teaches me a lot."
He dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but didn't get many chances to watch games growing up. Willson said he mostly read about notable Venezuelan players like Miguel Cabrera, Ozzie Guillen and Andres Galarraga.
"We watched, I would say, like one or two (MLB) games every month," Contreras said. "We could watch only the winter ball."
Wrigley Field felt a bit chilly Saturday compared to the recent heat wave and the wind was blowing in from center field. But instead of another pitchers' duel like they had Friday, the Cubs chipped away against one of Atlanta's better starters, Kyle Wright.
Jonathan Villar got it started with a two-out single that scored Contreras and Christopher Morel in the first inning. Contreras added an RBI single in the second and Jason Heyward collected a run-scoring double in the third to make it 4-0. Rafael Ortega added a line drive home run into the right field corner in the seventh inning.
The Cubs got a nice boost from the bottom of the order, with previously light-hitting Alfonso Rivas and Andrelton Simmons collecting 2 hits each. Rivas was called up Saturday as Frank Schwindel (back strain) went on the injured list.
Inside the Cubs clubhouse, Contreras emphasized that even though William is his brother, his teammates were the first priority.
"I love having Willson back there," Steele said. "It's really nice to have someone behind the plate that wants to win the game as badly as you do. That means a lot."
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