Contreras leads Cardinals past Cubs 3-1 in return to Wrigley
CHICAGO (AP) — Like so many other days at Wrigley Field, Willson Contreras seized the moment.
This time, in a St. Louis Cardinals jersey.
Contreras had two hits and two RBIs in his return to Chicago, including a tiebreaking double, and the Cardinals beat the Cubs 3-1 on Monday night.
“It was a great experience. It was what I expected,” Contreras said. “I got love. I got fans booing. It was fun to be back at Wrigley Field and play, and I enjoyed every second.”
St. Louis also got a strong effort from its bullpen in its second straight win after an eight-game losing streak. Génesis Cabrera (1-0), Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley combined for 4 2/3 innings of one-hit ball in relief of Miles Mikolas. Helsley got his fourth save.
“Bullpen was phenomenal today,” Mikolas said.
It was the Cardinals’ first win in 12 series openers. The streak of 11 straight losses in such games to begin the season was a franchise record.
Contreras played for Chicago for seven seasons before departing in free agency, signing an $87.5 million, five-year contract with St. Louis in December. And the three-time All-Star seemed to enjoy the stage at the middle of one of baseball’s biggest rivalries.
He waved to the cheering crowd of 30,937 after the Cubs showed a pregame tribute video. He was greeted with more applause before he batted for the first time in the second, but it was mostly boos for the rest of the game.
“You’re not a Cardinal until you get booed and yelled at at Wrigley,” Mikolas cracked, “so now he’s one of us.”
Contreras singled and scored on Dylan Carlson’s single in the second. He made it 2-1 when he rocketed a double off the wall in center in the sixth, and then added a run-scoring fielder’s choice in the eighth.
After each of his hits, Contreras stood on base with his hands in the air, egging on the crowd for a response.
“When you get booed, you’re doing something right,” Contreras said, “and that was kind of an extra push that I got there.”
Dansby Swanson hit an RBI double in the fifth to account for Chicago’s only run. Marcus Stroman (2-3) pitched six innings of two-run ball.
“I feel like I could have been a little bit better in the sixth, but I thought I threw the ball overall pretty decent,” Stroman said.
Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner departed with left hamstring tightness after he got hurt running the bases in the fifth. Hoerner is batting .303 on the season.
“Just grabbed a little bit when he was rounding second base, headed to third,” manager David Ross said. “Trying to be cautious, and we’ll see how he is in the morning.”
It was Chicago’s fifth loss in seven games.
The Cubs had a chance for another run in the fifth, but Nick Madrigal was cut down by Brendan Donovan on Cody Bellinger’s fly ball to left. Third baseman Patrick Wisdom also lost out on an opportunity for an inning-ending double play when he contemplated throwing home on Contreras’ run-scoring grounder in the eighth.
MAKING A MOVE
The Cubs recalled infielder/outfielder Christopher Morel from Triple-A Iowa and optioned outfielder Nelson Velázquez to their top farm club.
The 23-year-old Morel made his big league debut last year, batting .235 with 16 homers, 47 RBIs and 10 steals in 113 games with Chicago. He put together a fast start this season with Iowa, hitting .330 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 29 games.
“Christopher, you can’t ignore the numbers,” Ross said. “Mo’s done a really nice job down there. I know he’s going to help us out in a big way.”
Plate umpire CB Bucknor was shaken up when he was hit by an Andrew Knizner foul ball in the second inning. Bucknor was checked on by a Cubs trainer and stayed in the game after a short break.
Cardinals: 3B Nolan Arenado was scratched because of neck stiffness in what the team said was a precautionary move.
Right-handers Jack Flaherty (2-4, 6.29 ERA) and Jameson Taillon (0-2, 5.29 ERA) take the mound Tuesday night. Flaherty lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his previous start with St. Louis, surrendering a career-high 10 runs in an 11-7 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Taillon is looking for his first win in his fifth start for Chicago since signing with the team in free agency.
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