Albert Almora Jr. saves an unusual doubleheader day for the Cubs

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CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 19: Albert Almora Jr. #5 of the Chicago Cubs (center) is mobbed by teammates including Willson Contreras #40, Kris Bryant #17 and Javier Baez #9 after getting the game-winning hit in the 10th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on June 19, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Dodgers 2-1 in 10 innings. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It was a long night followed by a painful afternoon. Not exactly the way that Cubs’ fans had hoped their first series with the team that knocked them out of the playoff last year would go.

The teams waited till nearly 10 p.m. on Monday before expected rain and a power outage postponed their game to just after 12 p.m. on Tuesday. Then in that game, the Cubs were without their closer Brandon Morrow due to back problems, and then saw their lead disappear with two outs in the ninth in a 4-3 defeat.

Needless to say, the Cubs were in some need of good news in the second game of their doubleheader against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night – and it was Albert Almora Jr. that delivered it.

The outfielder’s single to right with no one out in the 10th inning gave the Cubs a 2-1 victory that evens the three-game series with Los Angeles that concludes with a 1:20 p.m. game on Wednesday. Joe Maddon’s team is now 41-29, sitting a half-game behind the Brewers, who beat the Pirates Tuesday night.

It concludes an unusual day of baseball that started off on a bad note with Morrow not being available to pitch against his former team because of back issues. How he discovered it, however, was most unusual.

The closer, who has converted 16 of 17 saves this season, was taking off his pants after arriving back in Chicago from the trip to St. Louis around 3 a.m. early Monday morning.

With Morrow out, Justin Wilson was put in as the closer and couldn’t get it done. While he was able to get the Dodgers down to two outs with two on in the ninth, he surrendered the game-winning double down the left field line to Kyle Farmer. The 4-3 defeat meant the Cubs couldn’t tie the Brewers for first place by themselves, instead needing a loss by the Brewers in Pittsburgh and a win in Game 2 to do so.

The prediction for rain held off at night, but fans might have been able to predict Mike Montgomery’s fate on the mound. Once again, the spot starter was servicable, pitching six innings and allowing just one run with five strikeouts compared to four walks. Yet the Cubs offense, as they did for him last Wednesday in Milwaukee, failed to score with him on the mound.

It wasn’t till he left in the seventh that Kyle Schwarber got things even  with a homer to left and both teams remained scoreless till extras. Rob Zastryzny saved Justin Hancock when he got Yasmani Grandal to fly out with the bases loaded.

Kris Bryant’s triple at the bottom of the inning set up Almora, who followed the intentional walk to Javier Baez with the hit to right to win the game. It continues a strong stretch for the outfielder who has seven hits in this last five games, though none was bigger than the one in the tenth.

It earned Almora a much-deserved celebration at the end of Game 2, one in which helped save what was a pretty negative doubleheader to that point.

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