Contreras hits two homers, Cubs outlast contending Orioles 3-2

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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BALTIMORE – Willson Contreras hit a pair of homers, Adrian Sampson pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 on Thursday.

Contreras had his 10th multi-homer game, which ranks second among Cubs catchers behind Gabby Hartnett (14).

“We played against a really good team,” Contreras said. “They’re hot. They’re in the wild card. They never give up.”

Sampson (1-3) allowed four hits with six strikeouts and two walks over 5 2/3 innings, earning his first win since last Sept. 14 at Philadelphia.

“Wins will come no matter what,” Sampson said. “My job is to keep our guys in the game. Eventually, we will score some runs, which we did.”

Rafael Ortega also homered for the Cubs, who have won five of seven.

Brandon Hughes picked up his first career save by getting a double play on a soft liner by Cedric Mullins in the ninth.

The Orioles entered the day 1 1/2 games out of an AL wild-card spot. They now play a three-game series against division rival Boston, which concludes with Sunday’s Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“Tough time scoring runs the first two-thirds of the game,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Give Sampson credit. He threw the ball well. We just didn’t take too many good at-bats into the eighth inning. I thought Watkins was really good. He gave up just that solo home run to Contreras. We had a rally there in the eighth, and runners on base there in the ninth. Just couldn’t get it done.”

Thursday’s game was a makeup of a rainout on June 8.

It was scoreless in the fifth when Baltimore’s Austin Hays hit a one-out double and Rougned Odor had an infield single. Jorge Mateo attempted a squeeze bunt, but Sampson flipped the ball with his glove to catcher Contreras, who tagged out Hays before he could score. The Orioles challenged the play but it was upheld.

“It was a great play,” Contreras said. “It takes a good decision to make that play.”

Contreras then gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the sixth with a solo shot off Spenser Watkins (4-3).

Ortega and Contreras gave the Cubs some cushion with back-to-back homers in the eighth off Joey Krehbiel.

Watkins allowed one run and five hits with no walks and two strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

Cubs reliever Sean Newcomb walked the first two batters in the eighth and was replaced by Erich Uelmen, who allowed an RBI single to Ryan Mountcastle that cut the lead to 3-1.

The Orioles pulled to within a run on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Santander.

Uelmen then got out of the jam. Third baseman Zach McKinstry threw out Mouncastle at home on a grounder by Ramon Urias, and Ryan McKenna struck out.

“That’s a bang-bang play,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “The throw is really important, keeping your composure really in that moment, knowing where you’re going.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: OF Michael Hermosillo (quad) is starting a rehab assignment as the designated hitter in the Arizona Complex League. … RHP Manny Rodriguez (elbow) allowed one and two hits with two strikeouts in one inning for Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday.

Orioles: Santander was the DH in an effort to keep him fresh and healthy.

UP NEXT??

Cubs: RHP Keegan Thompson (9-5, 3.67 ERA) will start the series opener Friday against Milwaukee and LHP Aaron Ashby (2-10, 4.24 ERA).

Orioles: RHP Jordan Lyles (9-9, 4.48) starts the opener against the Red Sox and RHP Kutter Crawford (3-4, 4.18) on Friday.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.