By ANDREW SELIGMAN | AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Willson Contreras got several standing ovations in what could be his final home game at Wrigley Field, Marcus Stroman threw six scoreless innings and the surging Chicago Cubs won their seventh straight, beating the Cincinnati Reds 8-1 on Sunday.
Nelson Velázquez drove in four runs, helping Chicago match its best run since a seven-game streak late last year. The Cubs, aided by three walks and a hit batter, knocked out a Chase Anderson in a five-run first and cruised to their 11th win in 12 games in their home finale.
“It means a lot to me,” said Contreras, whose contract is expiring. “That's why I wanted to come back and play this whole week, because I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if it's going to be my last game with the Cubs or not. ... If I had to redo it, I would do it again because I play (for) one of the best fanbases in baseball and they make this place special.”
The Reds have dropped six straight and 19 of 23. They’ll need to sweep a three-game series against the Cubs in Cincinnati to avoid the franchise’s second 100-loss season.
Stroman (6-7) gave up five hits, struck out seven and walked two. The right-hander was 3-0 in his final four starts.
Velázquez capped a five-run first with a two-run double against Fernando Cruz and drove in two more with a triple off the right-field wall in the seventh. Seiya Suzuki had two hits and two RBIs.
CHEERS FOR CONTRERAS
Contreras was cheered loudly when he came to the plate in the first, then was hit by a pitch and scored. He got another big ovation when he batted in the eighth and was showered with more cheers from the crowd of 30,029 when he trotted toward the dugout after being lifted for a pinch runner following a walk.
After the game, the Cubs gathered along the third-base line, clapping in unison as “Go Cubs, Go” blasted through the ballpark. Contreras, his mitt on his left hand, was the last one remaining on the field, waving to the crowd and pounding his chest. He wandered near the plate and hugged family members.
“Wrigley Field is just nothing but special,” he said. “Since the moment I got here, I knew that this could have been my home for my whole career. I got to a moment in my career that’s like a dream come true. I earned my spot in free agency, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Contreras will travel with the team to Cincinnati but wasn’t sure he’ll play in that series, saying it’s manager David Ross’ call.
The past few months have felt like a long goodbye for Contreras. The three-time All-Star who helped Chicago win a drought-busting World Series championship in 2016 looked like he might get traded prior to the Aug. 2 deadline. No deal materialized.
“It was nice for him to get some love,” Ross said. “He's got a lot of moments of love this year. It looked like he was taking those in, and those are special, special things that you don't ever forget as a player.”
Stroman, finishing his first season in Chicago, had good things to say about Contreras.
“Fire. Grit. Tenacity. Passion,” he said. “And he's your backstop, so that's what you want out of that position.”
Anderson (2-4) lasted just seven batters and got one out. The right-hander was tagged for five runs, walked three and gave up two hits. His ERA jumped from 4.70 to 6.56 in seven starts and eight appearances.
Jonathan India singled in a run in the seventh.
The Cubs' season attendance was 2,616,780. They drew 3,094,865 in 2019, the final year before COVID-19 restrictions.
Cubs: Ross said LHP Justin Steele's (low back strain) bullpen session on Saturday went “phenomenal” and he won't pitch again this season. Steele, sidelined since Aug. 26, is 4-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 24 starts.
Cubs RHP Hayden Wesneski (3-1, 2.33 ERA) opposes Hunter Greene (4-13, 4.66). Wesneski will make his fourth start and sixth appearance since having his contract selected from Triple-A Iowa. Greene has a 1.06 ERA in his past three starts.
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