CHICAGO — Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras each homered twice, and Javier Báez and David Bote also went deep as the Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves 13-4 on Saturday afternoon, snapping a two-game losing streak.
Chicago entered the game with the worst team batting average in the majors this season, .166, but took an 11-0 lead in the fifth.
"It's a collective sigh of relief," Bryant said.
The setback for Atlanta, which had won back-to-back games after losing four in a row, came as Sean Kazmar Jr. returned to the major leagues for the first time in more than a decade. The Braves selected the contract of Kazmar, a 36-year-old infielder, from their alternate training site before the game, and he pinch hit in the fifth inning.
Kazmar took a curveball from Trevor Williams for a strike, fouled off two fastballs, then grounded a curveball to second for a 4-6-3 double play — and was overjoyed in spite of the results.
"Obviously wasn't the outcome we were looking for. A win would have been nice," he said. "But what a good feeling."
Kazmar had not played in a Major League Baseball game since Sept. 23, 2008, with the San Diego Padres — a span of 12 years, 6 months, 25 days.
"Looking back at those 12 whatever years, 200 days, it kind of flew by in a sense," he said. "You only get one shot at this career. It didn't seem as long as it felt."
He appeared in 19 games during that 2008 season for his only MLB action until Saturday, and he had since played in Triple-A for the Padres, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets and Braves, plus Double-A for the Mets — a total of 1,106 minor league games.
Kazmar was at home living on unemployment insurance last year during the pandemic-shortened season, when the minor leagues' seasons were called off.
"There could have been obvious times where I doubted that this opportunity would ever come," he said. "Honestly, it never really left my mind, especially the last few years that I've been playing in (AAA) Gwinnett, I still felt like I had the ability to play at this level. Just super fortunate to get this opportunity — one to do it with an Atlanta Braves uniform on and secondly to do it at Wrigley Field is amazing."
The gap between MLB appearances was the longest since that of right-handed pitcher Ralph Winegarner, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Winegarner played on June 23, 1936, for the Cleveland Indians and did not return to the majors until July 7, 1949, with the St. Louis Browns — a span of 13 years and 14 days.
Kazmar's wife, Jen, made it to Wrigley for his return.
"I knew my wife would drop everything she has. She was actually at our boy's — Sean III, his baseball game had just started. And luckily enough we had the in-laws in town," Kazmar said. "Her and my mom were able to rush and get on a red-eye last night. And obviously with all the (COVID-19) protocols and stuff, it's kind of weird not being able to see them. I got to say hi to them before the game."
Williams (2-1) allowed one run and four hits in five innings. He had given up five runs and 10 hits against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his previous start.
Atlanta's Hector Ynoa (0-1) gave up six runs and seven hits — including three homers — in four innings.
Contreras hit solo shots in the first and third off Ynoa, and Bryant hit two-run drives against Jesse Biddle in the fifth and Jacob Webb in the sixth. Contreras has homered in three consecutive games for the first time in his MLB career.
"That's what we feel like this lineup is capable of any given night," Cubs manager David Ross said.
Báez hit a three-run homer off Ynoa in the third and Bote against Webb in the fifth.
"That's still a really good lineup," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's not hitting on all cylinders early. We're not either, quite honestly."
Ehire Adrianza and Ronald Acuña Jr. had two hits apiece for the Braves. Adrianza tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly before Marcell Ozuna hit a two-run single in a three-run seventh.
Atlanta was busy with transactions beyond calling up Kazma. The club also placed left-hander Jesse Biddle on the active roster, recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson, placed left-hander Sean Newcomb on the injured list and put Ender Inciarte on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring.
Kazmar was in his hotel room Friday watching Atlanta's game against the Cubs on television and realized his odds of a call-up were getting better when Inciarte, a center fielder, got injured in the fourth inning and second baseman Ozzie Albies Jr. was hit on the right calf by Justin Steel's pitch in the ninth. Albies is considered day to day.
"Watching the game and seeing everything kind of go down," Kazmar said. "I tell guys all the time you never know in this game. And sure enough, obviously, I'm a testament to it. You never know."
He got a call after the game to contact Snitker.
"That was probably one of the greatest moments I've had as a manager at all the levels, quite honestly," Snitker said. "It's amazing. You go from '08 to 2021, in between, you've got to be kidding me, to have the perseverance and the dedication and the drive."
No one was happier about it than Kazmar.
"Definitely everything and then some," he said. "What an amazing feeling."