Willson Contreras, playing left field, continues his hitting barrage
Days off will be hard to come by for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras if he keeps hitting like an MVP.
Contreras entered the game Saturday against the Nationals with a .337/.409/.663 slash line since July 1, so manager Joe Maddon decided to start him in left field for the third time this season. Alex Avila made his second start for the Cubs behind the plate.
‘‘[Contreras is] swinging the bat way too well, and I’ve got to get Alex in there,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘It’s really difficult to take Willson Contreras’ bat out of the lineup right now. So I thought it was the right thing to do today.’’
The roster shakeup was a success from the get-go. Contreras hit an infield single in the first inning that scored Kris Bryant, and Avila added a two-run home run in the inning, his first since joining the team.
Contreras added a two-run homer in the sixth to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead.
Contreras has been all over the diamond this season, playing 13 innings at first base, two at third, 26 in left and six in right.
‘‘It doesn’t matter where I play,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘I’ve been playing all around the nine positions. I’m just missing pitcher. I haven’t pitched in my career. But you never know.’’
Duensing a quiet force
It’s hard to imagine a nine-year veteran flying under the radar, but left-hander Brian Duensing quietly has put together a nice streak in the bullpen.
He has been lights-out in the last six weeks, allowing no runs since June 21. During that span, he has pitched in 19 games, faced 57 batters, struck out 17, walked two and allowed nine hits.
‘‘He’s a really quiet-on-the-surface-but-ingratiating-under-the-surface fellow,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘He has a great personality. I want to believe that the way we do things has permitted him to be himself, and I think because of that you’re seeing the best side of him pitching-wise.’’
Duensing pitched a scoreless sixth, retiring the side in order with two strikeouts.
Maddon said Duensing is ‘‘there to get lefties out’’ before pointing out that he actually has been better against right-handers this season. And that has been the key to Duensing’s success.
Right-handers are hitting .190 against Duensing; lefties have fared far better at .284.
‘‘He started out a little bit shaky,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But we gave him his opportunity, and it’s turning out to be pretty good.’’
Celebrating a cult classic
Maddon entered his postgame news conference wearing a black leather vest in honor of the team’s next themed road trip, which will celebrate the cult film ‘‘Easy Rider.’’
The jackets have nicknames on the front — Contreras’ says ‘‘Killer’’ and Kyle Schwarber’s says ‘‘Schwarbs’’ — and the words ‘‘North Siders’’ on the back, with a bald eagle and U.S. flags on the back, too.
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