For Willson Contreras, player-of-week award ‘motivates me to do more’

SAN FRANCISCO — As much as the starting rotation has been behind the Cubs’ rush from the All-Star break into first place in the
National League Central, no one has had a bigger impact on the surge than catcher Willson Contreras.

Certainly not a bigger impact on the baseball.

‘‘From the beginning of the year to where he’s at right now, it’s been pretty impressive, his entire game,’’ manager Joe Maddon said Monday, the day Contreras earned NL player-of-the-week honors. ‘‘What he’s doing offensively, we’ve definitely needed all of that to be in the position that we are right now.’’

Contreras was 10-for-22 (.455) with five home runs, a double and 13 RBI last week against the Diamondbacks and Nationals. But he has been hot since the start of July, roughly coinciding with the release of veteran Miguel Montero and his taking ownership of the catching job.

Contreras after his second home run Sunday in a loss to the Nationals.

Contreras entered play Monday hitting .349 with 12 homers, 12 walks and 32 RBI in 28 games since the start of July, raising his season average to .281 with 21 homers.

‘‘It means a lot to me,’’ he said. ‘‘This is my first award in the big leagues. Personally, it feels great; it feels amazing. It means a lot to me and my family. This only motivates me to do more, to keep doing more, to keep helping the team.’’

If he does any more the rest of the way, he might force his way into the MVP conversation. Right now, that is just the stuff of fan and Twitter daydreaming.

‘‘I don’t pay attention to any of that,’’ he said.

NOTE: Javy Baez hit the Cubs’ first inside-the-park homer in more than a year in the second inning. Anthony Rizzo hit the last one on June 29 of last season.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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