Almora propels Cubs to wild walkoff win over Phillies
If there's a big baserunning play to be made, the Chicago Cubs want Albert Almora Jr. to be in the middle of it.
He seems pretty adept at it, going back to, oh, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, when he tagged from first base on a flyout and went to second. He'd later score on a clutch double by Ben Zobrist.
The heady 23-year-old was at it again Thursday in a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field.
Almora led off the bottom of the 13th inning by legging out a double down the left field line. After Javier Baez grounded out to pitcher Joely Rodriguez, the Phillies intentionally walked Ben Zobrist. Matt Szczur grounded to second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who got the forceout at second.
However, shortstop Freddy Galvis threw the ball away at first, and Almora chugged all the way home with the winning run.
The victory was the Cubs' third in a row, and it improved their record to 16-12.
It all started with Almora reading the ball to left for the double.
"You can tell as a hitter when you have a chance to get to second base," he said. "I knew it was going to be close. I just gave it all I had."
As for being in these kinds of situations, Almora doesn't mind a bit.
"If I'm on base, it means I did something well," he said. "I just want to help. In that situation, I wanted to get to second base. When (Szczur) hit the groundball, you have it in the back of your head, 'What if something happens?' Szczur's a great runner. He could beat it out. If the first baseman's not paying attention, I could score. It was in the back of my head. Luckily, he threw it away. I always try to think ahead of time what's going on. It's the same way in the outfield."
Manager Joe Maddon is aware of Almora's alertness.
"Albert's been doing that kind of stuff," Maddon said. "That's the kind of stuff we like to do on a nightly basis. He seems to be in the middle of it a lot, with all of these baserunning maneuvers and aggressiveness. Here's a guy without the greatest speed in the world. I've talked about that. But he's a good baserunner, he's a good outfielder. He runs good routes. All that stuff is pertinent."
In this back-and-forth game, the Cubs jumped ahead with single runs in the first and second against Phillies starting pitcher Zach Eflin. Cubs starter John Lackey worked 5 innings, giving up 9 hits and 3 runs. The Phillies went ahead 4-3 in the top of the eighth.
Miguel Montero tied the game at 4-4 with a solo homer to center in the bottom of the inning. The ball landed in the basket below the bleachers.
"As soon as I hit it, I saw the center fielder kind of looking at the ball, like he was under the ball," Montero said. "I'm like, 'Oh, my God. He's going to catch it.' The next thing I know, the ball is in the basket. Basket. Amazing basket -- when I hit. But when I'm catching, I hate it."
As for the comeback, the Cubs pointed to their World Series rings.
"'We never quit,'" Almora said. "It's on the World Series ring. And it really comes home. It really makes a lot of sense, and it's organization. We never quit until the last out. We're in that ballgame no matter what."