Maddon awed by HR boom: It's 'extraterrestrial'


CHICAGO — Add Cubs manager Joe Maddon to the list of people wondering what’s going on with the baseball this season. On an unusually chilly June night at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, the Cubs and White Sox combined to hit five home runs in the first four innings of the game.

Several of them had Maddon thinking about aliens.

“I don’t know what I’m witnessing, but the way the ball is coming off the bat right now is extraterrestrial,” Maddon said after the Cubs’ 7-3 win. “It’s an E.T. thing going on out there. It’s crazy. This is my fifth year [with the Cubs], and I know what I’ve seen. Whenever the wind is blowing in like that, you don’t see that. You don’t see that.”

A light rain combined with that wind and cooler temperatures should have added to a pitchers’ night, but it was not meant to be. Sox center fielder Leury Garcia led off the game with a first-pitch home run off Cubs starter Jon Lester, beginning the mini home run derby in the early innings.

“We can sit here and talk until we are blue in the face about the ball,” Lester said. “It is what it is. Every pitcher in the big leagues has to pitch with it. You can comment on it all you want, but it just sounds like an excuse. I don’t make excuses. Have to make better pitches.”

It didn’t take long for the Cubs to join in the long ball fun. Catcher Willson Contreras hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning, then hit a solo shot two innings later. David Bote also went deep for the Cubs, as did Sox backstop James McCann.

“It took off,” Maddon said of the McCann home run. “You could see it from the field. It gets there [to the outfield] like a UFO. It just took off. It stood still, then took off.”

After a power drought in 2018, the Cubs are on pace to shatter records, not unlike many other teams in baseball. After Contreras belted his second of the night, the Cubs became the only team in baseball to employ five players with at least 15 home runs. No other team has more than three. They’ve hit 114 home runs already this season after hitting just 167 last year.

Said Maddon, shaking his head, though with a smile: “Wind blowing in, at a gale, balls flying out — easily.”

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