Contreras came off the bench in the sixth inning to smack a two-run double and then scored from second on Matt Szczur's infield hit for some valuable insurance as the Cubs held on for a 5-4 victory over the Phillies at chilly Wrigley Field.
"He plays with his hair on fire," manager Joe Maddon said after Contreras' run capped a four-run rally. "Sometimes it can actually work against him. He gets a little over-assertive. As he learns to play with his hair on fire and not absolutely a forest fire, maybe slightly like a burning bush, he's going to learn to control all that."
Contreras, 24, didn't disagree with Maddon's assessment.
"I don't know how to play cold," Contreras said. "I have to get my heat going on, and I'll be a better player."
Contreras' double and subsequent hustle took attention from the fact the Cubs had to overcome a 2-0 deficit that increased their first-inning ERA to 11.00. They have been outscored 35-19 in the first inning, and only their late offensive surges have been able to overshadow the starters' early woes.
Contreras came off the bench to pinch-hit for Miguel Montero and his double pulled down the left field line score the tying and go-ahead runs.
Maddon then summed Szczur to pinch-hit for Jake Arrieta, who survived a 28-pitch first and would have started the seventh with only 85 pitches it Maddon hadn't sought more runs.
Szczur hit a grounder up the middle and third base coach Gary Jones immediately waved Contreras toward home as shortstop Freddy Galvis fielded the ball but hesitated momentarily as he saw Contreras speeding toward the plate.
Galvis' throw struck the back of the mound on its way to catcher Andrew Knapp, whose tag was too late to nail Contreras, who thought he had missed the plate and dove back to tag it again.
Contreras landed hard on his side and was out of breath so Maddon left Kyle Schwarber in left field for another inning in case Contreras needed to leave the game.
"I was out of breath," Contreras said. "That was it. Everyone got scared, but I was good."
Arrieta, who allowed five runs in the first inning of his previous start at Boston, settled down and retired his final seven batters.
"They put some good swings on some pitches in the first," Arrieta said. "But after (that) I had three innings of 12 pitches or less, which was huge."
Contreras' run loomed larger when the Phillies scored in the eighth to snap Hector Rondon's streak of eight consecutive scoreless appearances.
Wade Davis then struck out Tommy Joseph with a runner at second to end the game and extend his scoreless streak to 19 1/3 innings dating back to last season with the Royals.
"He's like controlling the baseball with a remote," Contreras said after Davis converted his seventh save opportunity in as many chances. "It's just crazy."