Cubs extend win streak to 6 during Contreras' presumpitve farewell
Willson Contreras received two standing ovations from the fans at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, celebrated the Cubs' sixth straight win by getting a hug from every coach and teammate, then boarded a bus for the airport with the rest of his teammates.
Contreras' farewell to Wrigley was a presumptive celebration. The MLB trade deadline won't arrive until next Tuesday, but the Cubs will be in San Francisco and St. Louis in the coming week.
After the Cubs' 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh, Contreras was asked if he thinks there's a chance he could end up staying in Chicago beyond the deadline.
"The hope is there, but at the end of the day, this is business," he said. "A lot of people don't look at a baseball player as a human being. They look how much I can get to improve this team and that's about it.
"The hope is there, but at the end of the day, if they're going to make a move they're going to do it. I don't want to think about staying here because I'm like 70-30 (leaving) right now."
Contreras received the ovations as he walked to the plate in the first and seventh innings. Both times, he stayed out of the batters box and saluted the crowd of 30,978.
In his initial at-bat, Contreras sent the first pitch he saw into center field for a single, which ended up sparking a 3-run rally when Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner followed with doubles. Suzuki added his eighth home run in the eighth inning to the back of the left-field bleachers.
"I didn't expect (the ovation) in my first at-bat, because it was a long game," Contreras said. "But it was amazing. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could and take it all in. I love how the fans embrace myself and how much they love me.
"That makes me feel that if you have to walk away from this, I can walk away with my head up high because I know I did everything I could to make this team better from Day 1 when I got called up in 2016."
As the Cubs celebrated the victory, Contreras handed out a series of hugs on his way back to the dugout. Manager David Ross lifted Contreras off the ground as he gave his hug. Ross was in his final year as a player when the Venezuelan native made his Cubs debut.
"There's nothing better than love, support from your fan base, being cheered," Ross said. "I was able to have a little bit of that on that back end of my career. This place, there are special people here. I think that was awesome."
When Contreras finally reached the dugout, Happ was waiting with one final embrace before the teammates descended the stairs toward the clubhouse.
Happ dealt with his own farewell issues Tuesday as another player about whom trade rumors are swirling.
Happ said at one point during the game, he received a ball signed by all the bleacher regulars in left field.
"It's hard to put into words," Happ said of his embrace with Contreras. "When you play with somebody for that long and you share so many experiences. It's years and years of 200-plus days together. You spend more time with these guys than you do with your family during the season.
"I don't know if it was surreal. It was two really beautiful days at Wrigley Field that I tried to appreciate just as much if not more than every other time I step out there."
Both Happ and Contreras admitted there are benefits to being traded. They could end up winning a World Series title, like Joc Pederson did last year after being traded by the Cubs to Atlanta.
"I'll be more than happy to help another team to get to the World Series," Contreras said. "If it doesn't happen, I'll be more than happy to stay here with my teammates and try to find a way to make everyone better and keep being a nice leader on and off the field.
"I'm good with both ways. If I leave, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a tough one. But if I stay I'll be more than happy to stay. ... This is the only thing I know."
Starting pitcher Keegan Thompson delivered the Cubs' fourth consecutive quality start and tossed a career-high 7 innings with no earned runs allowed. The Pirates scored in the seventh when an error by Hoerner kept the inning alive and 6-foot-7 rookie shortstop Oneil Cruz crushed a 2-run homer through the wind to center field.
Mychal Givens picked up his second save for the Cubs.