The Cubs have won two games in a row over the Miami Marlins and have combined to give up just two runs in those games. At first blush, the obvious credit goes to pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel. Neither gave up a single run, with Hendricks throwing a complete game shut-out.
Sometimes it’s easy, as a fan, to overlook the partnership that must exist for a pitcher to be successful. The key ingredient in every pitcher’s successful outing is always how they communicate and call the game with the catcher. A smooth, easy night can clear the way for the pitcher to focus on what matters, making the next pitch.
For two nights in a row now, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity in the comments made by both Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel.
After throwing a complete game shut-out Monday night, Kyle Hendricks was asked about his young catcher, Willson Contreras. “We were on the same page all night,” said Hendricks of Contreras, “that was definitely the best night we’ve had out of all my starts with him. I was just following his lead, he had a great feel back there last night.”
After Tuesday’s game, another Cubs win, Jason Hammel had similar comments about the prodigious catcher, saying “He’s a great kid, man, I love him.” Hammel continued, “He’s gotten better every start that I’ve worked with him, with game calling, blocking, he’s even coming up to me and giving me hugs now.” As if that wasn’t enough, Hammel added, “He’s got kind words, wise words behind his young years. Very proud of him.”
Willson Contreras, Jason Hammel in the dugout. Hugging it out. pic.twitter.com/4nfdVxj85l
— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD_) August 3, 2016
Willson arrived on the scene in Chicago with a bang, hitting a home run in his first major league at bat, on his first major league pitch.
Yes, this kid loves playing baseball at the big league level. You can see the youthful exuberance in his eyes, the excitement he shows every time he steps foot on the field. And yet, as excited as he is, he has an uncanny way of bringing himself to the moment, locking his attention down on whatever is about to happen next.
It’s this laser-like focus that has allowed him to come up to the majors and, in a little over a month, have veteran pitchers fawning over him like a glossy-eyed teenager.
Willson has that thing, that effect on people that is contagious. And while his bat has done a lot of the talking so far, it’s clear that his engaging personality, combined with his tremendous skill-set and knowledge of the game, is what will put him over the top as a big league player.