Cubs' all-star advantage can't slow streaking Orioles
The Cubs have two all-stars, despite sitting well out of the playoff race.
The visiting Baltimore Orioles arrived at Wrigley Field as the hottest team in MLB, but have just one all-star, reliever Jorge Lopez.
It's a little strange, but Cubs all-stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ have the stats to back up their selections. In his first at-bat at Wrigley since being named an NL reserve, Happ hit his ninth home run of the season, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
But there was no stopping the red-hot Orioles. They stretched the win streak to nine in a row with a 4-2 victory on Tuesday as Lopez picked up his 17th save. It was the Cubs' fifth straight loss and the fourth time they couldn't hold an early lead.
Before the game, Cubs manager David Ross talked about Happ's uneven journey. The No. 9 overall draft pick in 2015, Happ made his major league debut in 2017, then was sent down to Iowa in 2019 to work on some holes in his game.
The following year, he was the Cubs' best position player and would have been an all-star if the game had been played. But Happ slumped in 2021, especially in the first half of the year when he hit .183. He recovered to hit 15 of his 24 home runs in August and September. Ross thought the early-season outfield collision with Nico Hoerner may have set him back.
"Continuing to believe in yourself is a really hard thing to do when you go through some adversity at this level and have extended moments where you don't play up to your capabilities," Ross said. "To come back from that is really rewarding and I'm sure gratifying for him.
"We've had some really tough conversations over my time here. I just love to see players overcome stuff like that."
Contreras had known he would be the National League's starting catcher for the third time in his career. But he found out Sunday he will be joined by younger brother William, a catcher for Atlanta who will start at designated hitter.
"That's something we haven't done since we were kids, playing on the patio back in Venezuela, just playing with a plastic ball and a stick," Willson said before Tuesday's game. "We used to do that every single day. We were just kids who wanted to play baseball, dreamed of coming to the big leagues and making the All-Star Game. That was our dream."
Another aspect that made the moment special is Contreras' parents were able to move to the United State this year and will be in attendance at Dodger Stadium next week.
"They deserve it more than I do," he said. "My mom and dad, they did everything they could to raise three kids in a poor neighborhood."
Contreras said he hasn't told his brother anything about the all-star experience. He'll let him go through it for himself. Willson homered in his first all-star at-bat against Blake Snell in 2018.
When someone brought up the idea of the brothers hitting back-to-back in the batting order, Contreras was all for it.
"That would be amazing," he said. "I would love to hit No. 8 or 9, I don't care. It would be amazing to spend the time with my brother."
After Happ's home run, the Cubs used aggressive baserunning to help create a 2-0 lead. Hoerner doubled with one out and stole third without a throw. That made things easier for Alfonso Rivas, who drove a single past a pulled-in infield.
With Baltimore pitcher Jordan Lyles still on the mound in the sixth, they tried it again and Seiya Suzuki stole third base with one out.
After a Patrick Wisdom walk, Hoerner hit a sinking liner that third baseman Ramon Urias caught just above the dirt and turned into an unassisted double play, since Suzuki ran on contact.
Urias put the Orioles ahead 3-2 with a 2-run homer in the fourth inning. Shortstop Jorge Mateo added a home run leading off the seventh to make it 4-2.
Cubs starter Adrian Sampson came close to a quality start, allowing 3 runs in 5⅓ innings. Cubs hitters were retired in order in each of the last three innings.