CHICAGO -- There were plenty of punchouts, some bruises and at least one heated exchange on Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field in Game 2 of the intracity Cubs vs. White Sox series. Willson Contreras provided the feel-good moment pregame, then he delivered a three-run homer plus an RBI single to spark a 7-2 Cubs victory and even the Interleague series at one win apiece.
Before the game, Contreras met with Daniel Rodriguez, a young boy with Down syndrome, and gave him batting gloves, a helmet and a jersey. Then in the first inning, Contreras smashed a 417-foot homer with two on and one out to give John Lackey all the cushion he needed.
"He inspired me today," Contreras said of Rodriguez, who he first met during a team-sponsored hospital visit. "Sometimes, we have a lot of things in our life that we don't appreciate, and those kids appreciate everything in life. I'm super blessed to share time with him and spend time with him."
Lackey provided some drama in the fifth when he hit three White Sox batters to load the bases with two outs. He escaped the mess when Tim Anderson grounded out. Chris Beck took over for Sox starter Carlos Rodon in the bottom of the frame, and after missing Ian Happ with his first pitch, Beck hit the rookie with his next one, prompting home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale to issue a warning to both teams. Jose Abreu was plunked twice -- in the first and the fifth -- and stared at Lackey from home plate after the second one.
"The hit-by-pitches are part of the game," Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. "At the end of the day, you have to ask the pitcher. I think that we all know what is happening. It's baseball, and like I said before, at the end of the day, you have to ask the pitcher who executed that pitch."
Said Lackey: "Obviously, I'm not trying to hit anybody, just trying to get the ball in deep on a couple guys."
Lackey was not surprised that the White Sox retaliated, and he apologized to Happ, saying he would buy the rookie something.
"Hopefully it's something nice," Happ said.
Barksdale had a run-in with the Cubs' Kris Bryant in the fourth, when the third baseman disagreed with a called third strike and was ejected for the first time in his career.
"I didn't think he could say anything worthy of ejection," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant, who didn't curse.
"I feel like I only want to say something when I know for a fact," Bryant said. "Sometimes there's borderline pitches that are really hard to call. That one I knew for a fact. I had to do it. I had to stick up for myself."
Rodon struck out the side in three of his four innings, and he matched a career high with 11 K's. But he was pulled after throwing 98 pitches.
Ben Zobrist added an RBI double in the second, and Albert Almora Jr. drove in two runs for the Cubs, who began the day a half-game behind the Brewers in the National League Central. The Cubs are 9-2 since the All-Star break, while the White Sox slipped to 1-9 during that same stretch.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pitchers can hit: On Monday, White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez came up to hit with runners on in two innings, but he grounded out both times. On Tuesday, the White Sox had two on and two outs in the second after Anderson and Omar Narvaez both singled. This time, Rodon smacked a double into the gap in right-center to pull within a run. It was Rodon's first Major League hit.
"It's nice. It gives us a couple of runs," Rodon said. "Once again, my job is to pitch and not hit. It so happened I got a hit, but four innings is not going to cut it."
Relief work: Lackey walked Narvaez to open the White Sox sixth, and Adam Engel then doubled to chase the Cubs' starter. Carl Edwards Jr. struck out Tyler Saladino and got Melky Cabrera to hit a comebacker. Edwards then fanned Abreu after a five-pitch at-bat to end the inning and the threat. The young Cubs pitcher punctuated his K with a yell.
"He's a great hitter -- look at this guy, man," Edwards said of Abreu. "To get a guy like that out, it brings out your emotions. I battled him and battled him and battled him. I love [Lackey]. I don't know if this is his last year or what, but for me, I go out there every day to make sure ... [we] win or keep the lead."
"Today we had some opportunities, and we just weren't able to get them in," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "Today wasn't our day with the timely hitting factor."
"Why would I want him to do that? I don't think that would have been the right thing to do." -- Renteria, on whether he wanted Barksdale to issue a warning after Lackey's second or third hit batsman in the fifth, before Beck took the mound against Happ
"He was just a little out of control. He had the John Daly driver out today, and that's it. He's been through that before, and he'll be fine. He knows how to have a bad day at the plate and come back and do really well the next time. You knew his defense would not be impacted by it. He'll get over it. He's been there before." -- Maddon, on Javier Baez, who struck out a career-high five times
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Rodon is the eighth starting pitcher since 1974 to record 11 strikeouts through four innings. He's also the first pitcher since at least 1913 to record 11 strikeouts in an outing in which he lasted four or fewer innings.
Lackey is the first Cubs pitcher to hit four batters in a game since Moe Drabowsky did so on June 2, 1957, in the first game of a doubleheader at Cincinnati.
The White Sox had runners at first and third with one out in the eighth inning against Hector Rondon. Saladino hit a grounder to Rondon, who threw to shortstop Addison Russell for the force at second. Russell fired to first to get Saladino, who was called out. The White Sox challenged the call at first, and after a review, the call stood.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox:James Shields makes his 10th start of the season Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT as the crosstown battle moves to Guaranteed Rate Field for a two-game set. The right-hander is 1-2 with an 8.10 ERA in six starts since returning from the disabled list after going 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA over his first three starts.
Cubs:Jake Arrieta will start Wednesday when the intracity series shifts to Guaranteed Rate Field. Arrieta gave up two runs over six innings against the Cardinals in his last outing.