Cubs keep rolling behind Quintana, go-ahead blast by Contreras

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Jose Quintana allowed three runs and struck out seven in six innings in his Cubs home debut Sunday against the Cardinals.
| Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Willson Contreras turned and screamed toward first-base coach Brandon Hyde after slamming a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning Sunday night against the Cardinals.

What exactly did he say?

“I can’t say it here,” Contreras said with a laugh. “It was part of my energy and my excitement.”

Forgive Contreras and his teammates for feeling bleeping wonderful after the 5-3 win. The Cubs (51-46) climbed a season-best five games above .500 and moved a percentage point ahead of the Brewers and into first place in the -National League Central.

Jose Quintana (2-0) overcame early jitters to salvage a quality start in his Wrigley Field debut as a Cub. The southpaw settled down to finish with three runs allowed in six innings.

“A lot of emotions around me,” Quintana said. “It was fun.”

A healthy serving of run support added to the enjoyment.

Kyle Schwarber evened the score at 3 with a signature blast to right field, and Contreras punctuated the comeback with a go-ahead shot into the left-field bleachers. The Cubs improved to 8-1 since the All-Star break, which is the best record in the big leagues during that span.

Contreras has emerged as a significant factor in the Cubs’ recent success. He leads the team with 14 go-ahead RBI and is hitting .346 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI in his last 30 games.

“He’s doing everything,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s hitting fourth, he’s catching, he’s handling a really good pitching staff, he’s throwing people out, he’s blocking the ball really well and he’s hitting homers. So, God bless him.”

Maddon did not flinch when asked whether Contreras could develop into a superstar.

“You’ve got to consider him one of the elite catchers in the National League already,” Maddon said. “He does everything so well. He is really good right now, and he’s going to get better.”

Defensive gems

Jason Heyward robbed Tommy Pham of extra bases when he made a leaping catch in deep right field in the first inning. Pham jumped in disbelief before retreating to the visitors’ dugout.

Addison Russell provided another first-inning highlight with a pinpoint throw to nab Matt Carpenter at home. Russell quickly saluted Schwarber, who had fired a strike to Russell as the cutoff man.

Switching it up

During early batting practice, Anthony Rizzo decided to try a few right-handed swings.

The natural left-hander promptly launched a ball into the first few rows of the left-center field bleachers.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Maddon said. “All of these guys are such good athletes. I’m sure Javy [Baez] could do it left-handed, if you watched Javy out there.”

This and that

Cubs closer Wade Davis converted his 20th consecutive save, which is a single-season team record. Davis surpassed the previous record of 19 straight saves that was shared by Carlos Marmol (2012), Ryan Dempster (2005) and Tom Gordon (2001).

• Former Bears coach and current Illinois coach Lovie Smith helped deliver the lineup card.

Follow me on Twitter @tcmusick.

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