It didn’t take long for tempers to flare during the Cubs’ 8-3 victory over the Braves on Monday at Wrigley Field.
Braves catcher Tyler Flowers called Willson Contreras’ behavior after his home run to lead off the second inning unnecessary. Braves pitcher Julio Teheran needed to be held back after benches emptied during a brief altercation after Contreras crossed home plate.
”What are you trying to do? You just hit the ball out,” Teheran said. “Just touch the plate and go back to your dugout. You don’t need to be talking and kind of screaming something like that because that doesn’t look good.”
Teheran also took exception to Contreras’ approach at the plate during the first three pitches of his at-bat.
”He was kind of taking forever to get on the plate,” Teheran said. “I don’t know if Flowers said something to him, but obviously, he was trying to do something. He called time twice. There’s no reason to call time twice.”
With the count at 1-1 to lead off the second, Teheran threw a two-seamer to Contreras that started in the strike zone but crossed the middle of the plate level with Contreras’ shins.
Contreras didn’t agree with plate umpire John Tumpane calling the pitch a strike and let him know about it.
”He’s great behind the plate, but to be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” Contreras said. “And [Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that and he jumped into the conversation.”
On the next pitch, Contreras’ homer traveled 370 feet into the basket on the right-field wall. Right before he took off for first, Contreras said something directed toward Flowers. As Contreras rounded first, he gestured towards the Braves’ dugout and pounded his chest.
Contreras had more to say to Flowers before he crossed home plate — with Tumpane stepping between the two – while Contreras back-pedaled to the Cubs’ dugout as the two catchers continued their dialogue.
Teheran didn’t try to intervene until after Contreras crossed the plate, prompting the Braves’ Johan Camargo to shield Teheran from Contreras.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon came out of the dugout and talked to Flowers about what happened.
”He came up to me pretty quickly trying to figure out what was going on,” Flowers said. “I think I played against him long enough and he’s seen me long enough [to know] I’m not really an instigator in those type of things. I gave him a quick rundown on it. He said he’ll talk to him and take care of it. I thought that was first-class by Joe.”
Although tempers cooled quickly, it was a tenser-than-expected moment during the end of June. But this is what happens when two teams at the top of their divisions collide.
”Those things are going to happen in games a lot,” Contreras said. “I don’t think this is the first time it’s happened against the Braves.”
Contreras is right. On April 1 — when the Braves beat the Cubs 8-0 — Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson took issue with David Bote’s hard slide into second. Like Monday, players stepped onto the field, but the incident cooled down quickly.
Monday marked the second time this season the teams opened a series with an altercation. They still have to play three more games to finish their season series on Thursday.
Whether both teams can keep their cool — and if this feistiness is a prelude to a potential postseason matchup — remains to be seen.
”It was all very unnecessary in my opinion,” Flowers said. “The guy’s a decent hitter. He doesn’t need to complain about every call. Sometimes you need to pick your battles and, hopefully, that’s something he’ll learn as he gets a little older.”