CHICAGO (AP) — Willson Contreras spiked his bat in celebration as his soaring drive headed for the bleachers. Ben Zobrist sparked Chicago’s lineup from the leadoff spot.
Yup, they’re back.
Nicholas Castellanos homered and drove in four runs, and the Cubs celebrated the return of Contreras and Zobrist by topping the Seattle Mariners 6-1 on Tuesday night.
“It was great having Zo and obviously Contreras back, too,” said Kyle Schwarber, who went 3 for 3 with his team-high 33rd homer. “Benny at the top of the lineup, seeing a lot of pitches up there, and Contreras having a lot of good at-bats.”
Jon Lester (12-9) escaped three bases-loaded jams while working six innings in his second straight win, helping Chicago stay three games back of NL Central-leading St. Louis. The Cubs also remained 2½ games ahead of Philadelphia for the second NL wild card.
Daniel Vogelbach’s pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth accounted for Seattle’s only run in its fourth loss in five games.
“You’ve got to score runs on the road to win,” manager Scott Servais said. “You need a big hit here or there and we just weren’t able to do that at all.”
Félix Hernández (1-5) lasted just three innings in his third start since coming off the injured list after being sidelined for more than three months with right shoulder stiffness.
Asked how he felt mechanically, Hernández replied: “Lost. Completely lost.”
The Cubs played without All-Stars Kris Bryant and Javier Báez due to injuries. Bryant was scratched due to right knee soreness, and Báez missed his second straight game with a jammed left thumb.
But they had more than enough against the lowly Mariners, especially with Contreras and Zobrist back in the lineup.
“I think that just speaks on how talented this clubhouse is from top to bottom,” Castellanos said. “If somebody steps out, somebody else steps in.”
Contreras had been out since he strained his right hamstring during a 4-1 victory over Milwaukee on Aug. 3. The fiery catcher led off the second with a shot to left-center for his 20th homer , and then threw his bat toward the ground as the crowd roared.
“It was a special moment for me because I know that I got hurt a month ago and battled my way back,” Contreras said.
Zobrist reached twice and scored two runs in his first major league action since he left the team in May to be with his family while going through a divorce.
Zobrist received a standing ovation from the crowd of 33,958 before his first at-bat.
“Very, very warm welcome,” he said. “I just feel real grateful that I get to be a part of this.”
Zobrist led off the fifth with a bunt single. Schwarber then singled before Castellanos drove Wade LeBlanc’s pitch deep to right , giving the Cubs a 5-0 lead.
Castellanos has 12 homers and 24 RBIs in 31 games since he was acquired in a trade with Detroit on July 31. It was his 23rd homer overall this year.
The Mariners recalled infielder Shed Long and right-hander Zac Grotz from Triple-A Tacoma. Grotz worked the eighth, and Long popped out as a pinch hitter in the ninth.
Mariners: C Omar Narváez (back spasms) was out of the starting lineup for the second straight day. … SS J.P. Crawford met with doctors before missing his fourth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness. “It tested out pretty good strength-wise with that hamstring,” Servais said. … OF Mitch Haniger wants to play again this season, but Servais said his lower back is still bothering him. Haniger hurt his back while rehabbing from a ruptured testicle. “It may be a situation where he gets a second opinion and see if there’s something we’re missing,” Servais said.
Cubs: LHP Derek Holland was activated from the 10-day IL. The reliever was sidelined by a bruised left wrist.
Mariners: LHP Marco Gonzales (14-11, 4.30 ERA) starts Thursday night in the opener of a four-game set at AL West-leading Houston. LHP Wade Miley (13-4, 3.06 ERA) gets the ball for the Astros.
Cubs: Following an off day, LHP José Quintana (12-8, 3.90 ERA) and Brewers RHP Chase Anderson (6-4, 4.58 ERA) meet again Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series in Milwaukee. Quintana tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the Cubs’ 7-1 victory over Anderson and the Brewers on Friday.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap