Miguel Montero was a fitting hero Friday. The 33-year-old catcher came in hitting .215. “There was actually a point where I thought I was going to get released,” he said. But came through when the Cubs needed him.
Montero’s 10th-inning home run gave the Cubs a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, igniting a Wrigley Field crowd awaiting the celebration of the Cubs’ National League Central Division title.
“I’ve been having a tough year,” Montero said. “The reality is, I haven’t really played much this year [59 starts]. I haven’t swung the bat the way I wanted. But the good thing is like the last three weeks, I’ve been swinging the bat pretty good. I’ve been feeling good at the plate.”
Albert Almora, Jr., one of the best defensive outfielders on the team — if not the best — could be the odd-man out among outfielders for the playoff roster. But Almora served a reminder that he’s more than just a defensive player. The rookie had two hits Friday, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning that tied the game at 2.
Almora, who has four RBIs in his last two starts, is hitting .275 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. His goal right now is to just be ready.
“I haven’t even thought about [the playoff roster],” Almora said. “If they call my name, I’m ready to do whatever I can do to help the team. If not, I’m going to be the first one on the top step [of the dugout], cheering on my teamamates. That’s the way I am. That’s the way I will be.”
When Almora was drafted sixth overall in 2012 (five spots ahead of Addison Russell), the Cubs were 18-36 and had lost 16 of 19 games on their way to 101-loss season. Though not a regular, he’s proud to be a part of a landmark season.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since the day I was drafted,” Almora said. “The day I was drafted the Cubs weren’t the best team in baseball. That’s something I promised Theo [Epstein] — it’s kind of funny to say, but I was an 18-year-old kid. I was like, ‘I want to win.’ And I think they liked that about me. Now I know my role here. I know what I can do to help the team win.”
With the playoff roster in mind, an injury to outfielder Jorge Soler bears watching. Soler, who has had a history of injuries with the Cubs, left the game in the fourth inning with “right-side tightness.”
Wire to wire
The Cubs (94-53) had the best record in baseball through their first 60 games (42-18). With Friday’s victory, they have the best record in baseball in their last 60 games (42-18). They were 10-17 in between — their only dry spell this season.