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Cubs break out of offensive doldrums, hit six home runs in rout of Braves

Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant hit two apiece, and Javy Baez and David Bote go deep, too.

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras homered in his first two at-bats Saturday against the Braves at Wrigley Field.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras homered in his first two at-bats Saturday against the Braves at Wrigley Field.
David Banks/Getty Images

Maybe if opposing pitchers keep plunking Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, he’ll keep hitting home runs.

Contreras hit a pair of 400-foot bombs in his first two at-bats Saturday as the Cubs beat the Braves 13-4. Those were his fourth and fifth homers of the season, equaling the number of times he has been hit by a pitch in 2021.

And maybe if Contreras keeps hitting, the rest of the offense will start to do so.

The Cubs’ lineup looked as though it had been jolted back to life after sleepwalking through the first 13 games. Kris Bryant also hit two homers, and Javy Baez and David Bote added one each. The lineup combined for 14 hits and the most runs the Cubs have scored in a game since Sept. 15, 2019, against the Pirates.

‘‘It lets you relax just a hair,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘These guys have put in the work, and today was definitely a positive and a nice little ‘OK, relax.’ ’’

Starter Trevor Williams looked smooth on the mound, too. He held the Braves to one run in five-plus innings and chipped in with a fifth-inning single of his own. All told, the Cubs had nine extra-base hits, their highest number this season.

The question going forward is whether the Cubs can keep the good vibes going. Before the game, Ross said he was seeing some positives from his guys amid their struggles, such as an increase in hard-hit balls and quality at-bats. Good old-fashioned grinding at the plate eventually was going to yield results.

Serving a one-game suspension Friday gave Ross the chance to watch the Cubs’ at-bats from a different vantage point. That fresh look might have helped him to see the tides would be turning soon for the offense.

‘‘I saw the guys fighting,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Really quality at-bats, taking our walks.’’

Entering the game, the Cubs had a .166 batting average — the lowest in the majors by 35 points — and more than twice as many strikeouts as hits. But perhaps the fact their batting average on balls in play was so low (.205) meant they were due for a big afternoon. Sooner or later, those balls in play were due to start dropping.

‘‘It feels like it was just bound to happen,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘Hopefully we can continue with that and continue with the approaches that we had today and carry on to the next one.’’

Bryant and Baez said the windfall of runs and hits helped keep the Cubs from overreacting to the collective offensive slump. Not having the sense of urgency of a 60-game season, like in 2020, and being able to review video of their at-bats during the game again helped them to stay the course even while the hits weren’t falling and the strikeouts were piling up.

Having Contreras start things with homers in his first two at-bats didn’t hurt, either.

‘‘Once we get that first run and we start up, it gives us confidence to keep our plan,’’ Baez said.

The same way the lineup has seemed to slump as a group, it looked against the Braves as though it could get hot as a group. The explosion of runs might prove to be a blip, or it might prove to be a flashpoint for the offense.

‘‘I do think, to an extent, hitting is definitely contagious,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘It’s a collective sigh of relief a little bit.’’