Hot, bothered and fired up: Cubs head home to face Pirates, elements in opener
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MILWAUKEE — With one out in the eighth inning Sunday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras fouled off three full-count pitches before lining the next pitch off the top of the wall in right-center, tearing around second as the ball rolled toward left and nearly running through a stop sign as he rounded third before settling for a triple.
After pumping his fists, Contreras looked back toward the Brewers’ dugout and directed repeated expletives at a player who taunted him during the at-bat, someone he said he had an incident with several years ago in winter ball.
‘‘There’s one person for them that I don’t like, and that was something that came out,’’ Contreras said, refusing to identify the player. ‘‘He knows who he is.’’
We might not yet be able to say with certainty that it was Eric Thames, the only player in the Brewers’ dugout at that moment who played a winter in Venezuela the same year as Contreras.
But at least one thing was certain as the Cubs beat the Brewers 3-0 to take three of four games in a series that wrapped up their season-opening nine-game road trip: They’re clearly hot, bothered and fired up for their home opener Monday against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
‘‘We’re excited,’’ said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, whose balky back might delay his home debut till Wednesday. ‘‘We play well at home. We feed off our crowd.’’
The intensity and heat at Miller Park weren’t enough for the Cubs to get Contreras in from third in the eighth and might not be enough to keep them warm in the near-freezing temperatures forecast for Monday. But they were more than enough to ignite a victory that sent the Cubs home with a 5-4 record after their longest opening road trip since a 12-gamer in 1899.
‘‘It’s always good to finish with a winning [road trip], especially against the Brewers,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘They played good against us last year. This [series], we had tough games. And they’re going to keep coming at us. We’re going to keep playing our best games.’’
Bigger, wider dugouts, wintry weather and the hot-starting Pirates await the Cubs for their home opener, which will feature a pregame parade of Hall of Famers (Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson) and members of the Loyola men’s basketball team singing the seventh-inning stretch.
Whether the elements allow the game to be played, the Cubs will be home after spending the last 54 days together in Mesa, Arizona; Las Vegas; Fort Myers, Florida; Miami, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.
‘‘That’ll be unusual,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘It seems like Christmas was the last time we were home. But our guys have been great. The energy’s still fine.’’
If there’s one Cubs player who might rather stay in Milwaukee, it’s left-hander Jose Quintana, whose six scoreless innings Sunday gave him a streak of 17 in a row at Miller Park, including a three-hitter last September.
‘‘No, I want to go home,’’ Quintana (1-1) said with a laugh. ‘‘I know I have really good numbers here, but I want to do the same thing at Wrigley next time.’’
Because of a rainout Tuesday in Cincinnati, fifth starter Tyler Chatwood will start the home opener. It will be his home debut for the Cubs.
‘‘I can’t imagine what the atmosphere’s going to be like,’’ Chatwood said. ‘‘I’m sure there’s going to be a little more buzz than a normal game. But the biggest thing is just using the adrenaline in the right way. It’ll be cool.’’
‘‘It should be fun,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘Nice and cold. Snow. Home opener. Wouldn’t have it any other way in Chicago.’’