Cubs stay in first in the NL Central after a whirlwind, extra-inning win over Pirates

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Albert Almora Jr. (top) of the Chicago Cubs celebrates his game-winning walk-off single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the tenth inning on September 26, 2018 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won 7-6. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It was a night that was supposed to dispel the thought that momentum was slipping away.

We’ll it was and it wasn’t against the Pirates.

With the Brewers once again beating the Cardinals in St. Louis, Joe Maddon’s team had to win in order to hold onto the lead in National League Central division, even though that result officially clinched them a spot in the postseason. It looked like they would easily do so when they raced out to a 6-1 lead and were still up four in the eighth inning.

Then came two Pittsburgh runs in the 8th, a foul ball behind the plate which a fan got in the way of Anthony Rizzo making the catch, then a two-out double that bounced off the first baseman’s glove. All of these moments stirred the emotions of a Cubs’ fan base that believed they were done with days like this, as a sure win was suddenly headed to extra innings.

But one again in this unprecedented era, there would be no backing down from a healthy amount of adversity.

Albert Almora Jr.’s two-out single to left in the 10th innings drove in Terrance Gore for the game-winning run Wednesday night at Wrigley Field as the Cubs beat the Pirates 7-6.

That takes the Cubs’ Magic Number to clinch the division to four as their lead over Milwaukee remains at a half-game. The Brewers will have Thursday off as the Cubs complete their four-game series with the Pirates that night, when maybe the team will have their wind back after a most unusual night at the Friendly Confines.

A dramatic ending didn’t seem in the cards for most of Wednesday evening as the Cubs led from the first inning on. After Pittsburgh got a run off Jose Quintana in the top half of the inning on a Jose Osuna homer, Jason Heyward got it back and more in the bottom half with two-run blast to make it 2-1. That was the first time the Cubs had scored more than one run against the Pirates in seven contests, but the offense wasn’t done.

Two runs came on a sacrifice fly by Rizzo and a bases loaded walk in the third to Kyle Schwarber, and then another pair RBI singles from Javier Baez then Heyward to make it 6-1. Quintana would allow another solo homer to Jeff Dickerson in the fifth, but left with a comfortable 6-2 lead that lasted till the 8th.

Pittsburgh then got things started against the Cubs’ bullpen as Carl Edwards Jr and Steve Cishek had a bit of trouble stopping the Pirate hitters, with Elias Diaz’s single plating two runs to make it a 6-4 game.

Against Justin Wilson in the ninth, things got a bit crazy. After getting the first out, the pitcher allowed a single to Kevin Newman, and it appeared the Cubs might get Fransisco Cervelli out with a pop up behind home plate. Rizzo reached his way around the screen and into the stands, but his glove collided with a fan’s outstretched hands and couldn’t complete the play. With new life, Cervelli belted a long double off the wall in right to put runners on second and third.

After getting Adam Frazier to fly out, Wilson had Starlin Marte down to two strikes before he smacked one down the right field line. It hit off the glove of Rizzo, going into the outfield to allow the tying runs to score.

What seemed like a nightmare ended like a dream for the Cubs, however, as they managed to squeeze across a run in the 10th. Ian Happ walked and was replaced by  Gore, and he got to third on a sacrifice and a ground out. Then with two strikes, Almora singled through the infield to bring home the winning run on a bizarre, stressful, yet still successful night at Wrigley Field.