It has been a difficult few days for St. Louis Cardinals erstwhile catcher Willson Contreras. . It feels like the Cardinals are scapegoating Contreras for their terrible start, at least to some extent, but the bottom line is he is no longer the starting catcher.
On Monday, Contreras returned to Wrigley Field as a visiting player for the first time, and yeah, he was met with some boos prior to his first at-bat. It was mostly cheering, to be sure, but there were a few boos mixed in there. Contreras had a good time with it and egged on the crowd after shooting a single back up the middle in his first career at-bat against the Chicago Cubs.
Later in the game, Contreras drove in the go-ahead run with a booming sixth-inning double to dead center field. It looked like it had a chance to leave the yard off the bat -- it would have been his 67th career home run at the Friendly Confines -- but it banged off the wall instead and drove in what proved to be the game-winning run. Once again, Contreras egged on the crowd.
Contreras drove in an insurance run in the eighth inning with a fielder's choice ground ball. Patrick Wisdom looked home, and by the time he fired to second to start the potential 5-4-3 double play, it was too late as Contreras beat it out at first. Contreras went 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI against his former team Monday (STL 3, CHC 1). As the DH, of course.
Prior to the game, Contreras had nothing but good things to say about the Cubs organization and the Cubs fans. Here's what he told reporters (via WGN TV):
"Even though I'm wearing a different uniform, that doesn't mean that I don't love them, because they know I love them," said Contreras when asked what he thinks the fan reaction will be on Monday night. "They know I'm really thankful for the fanbase and all the support that I got the last six years and still having support from them. It means a lot to me.
"I will say that if I did something in the past that got in some people's feelings, I really apologize, but I would never say anything against the Chicago Cubs or anything against the fanbase. I'm a humble guy, I'm really thankful, and the memories that I create here and I have here are not going to go away like that."
Contreras originally signed with the Cubs as a 17-year-old in 2009. He broke into the big leagues with Chicago in June 2016 and started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series behind the plate. Contreras hit .256/.349/.459 in parts of six seasons with the Cubs and went to three All-Star Games. He has ranked among the game's top catchers since Day 1.
The Cardinals signed Contreras to a five-year, $87.5 million free-agent contract to replace the iconic Yadier Molina this past winter. Including Monday, he is hitting .273/.346/.405 this season. Monday's win improved St. Louis to 12-24 on the season.