CHICAGO -- The kids set it up and -- finally -- the veterans knocked it down for the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs' wacky 8-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in 13 innings on Monday was a sprawling affair. The game dragged on just over five hours, a fact ill-timed in a number of ways. But when Miguel Montero looped a single against a drawn infield to score Kris Bryant, it was all worth it.
"That was a goofy game, boy," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said as he sat down for his late-night, postgame news conference. He could have left it at that.
The win was an affirmative testament to the collective will of a tired Chicago team. One day after they finished a nine-game, 10-day West Coast trip punctuated by flight delays and a short night's rest, the Cubs came back twice to knock off a Pirates team involved in a tight battle with St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot.
"We got in late last night," Maddon said. "These guys were tired."
Earlier in the evening, before the sun set, Cubs ace Jake Arrieta was tagged for six runs in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed two home runs as the Pirates built a 6-3 lead heading into the eighth. By then, it was past dusk, but things were just getting started.
"I didn't pitch as well as I would have liked," Arrieta said. "Obviously, the two homers were the daggers for me."
Luckily for Arrieta, who ended up with a no-decision, the Cubs' energetic kids were just tapping into their energy reserves.
"The resiliency of our team is incredible," Arrieta said.
First up was rookie catcher Willson Contreras, who rifled a two-run shot into the center-field batter's eye off Neftali Feliz to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 6-5. Then, in the ninth, Jorge Soler capped a big night with an opposite-field shot off Pirates closer Tony Watson to send the game into extra innings. It was the first game-tying homer in the ninth inning or later for Soler, who added a single and a double in the game.
"We never give up," Soler said via a translator. "Even until the last out, we're always trying to battle on and look for the victory."
The Cubs nearly won in the 10th. With the bases full and one out, Anthony Rizzo bounced one to first baseman Sean Rodriguez, who stepped on the bag and threw Javier Baez out at home on a close play. The umpires went to the review booth to see if Baez had slipped his hand around the tag of catcher Francisco Cervelli, but the call stood, which sent the game to the 11th.
"I don't know about the view," Baez said. "I felt like I got in there."
Baez was thrown out at the plate again in the 12th, after another umpire review. He tripled with one out but was thrown out trying to score on Addison Russell's shallow fly to left. Baez tied a career high with four hits in the game.
As Maddon said, "We had plenty of opportunities to win that game in a normal fashion."
The squandered chances were rendered irrelevant in the 13th. In the top half of the inning, Cubs reliever Rob Zastryzny -- Chicago's eighth hurler of the night -- loaded the bases with no outs but limited Pittsburgh to one run on Josh Harrison's sacrifice fly. That once again put Pittsburgh in position to win with three more outs.
Not on this night. Not in this year.
That brought up Montero, the veteran catcher whose playing time has been pinched by the sparkling arrival of Contreras. Montero had been sitting on the bench for five hours, but that wasn't so long to wait to be the hero and to find the Cubs their fifth walk-off win of the season.
"The position [Montero] was in tonight, to be on the bench as long as he was, to stay ready to put yourself in position to get a big knock for us like that, it isn't easy to do," Arrieta said. "You respect that."
Bryant's game-winning run gave him an MLB-best 109 runs this season. It was Montero's third walk-off RBI of his career. The victory gave Zastryzny his first big league win. And it gave the Cubs some positive vibes to take home for some much-needed rest.
"Of course you want to win that game," Maddon said. "That's a tough game to lose. But understand the effort you saw tonight, based on a lot of fatigue. That's probably what I'm most proud of."