CHICAGO — Miguel Montero waited for five hours before he got a chance to play. And then he had to face a crafty left-hander with the bases loaded.
One soft liner made it all worth it.
Montero hit a game-ending RBI single in the 13th inning, and the Chicago Cubs rallied for a wild 8-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
“It’s a winning team, winning attitude,” Montero said. “That’s (what) it’s all about. We never quit. We know we can come back anytime. We’ve done it all season long, and we did it again today.”
Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo set the stage for Montero’s clutch swing with consecutive singles against Jeff Locke (9-8), plating the tying run. After Ben Zobrist was walked intentionally, Montero dumped a 1-2 pitch into left for a big pinch-hit single.
The major league-leading Cubs (83-47) dropped two of three in Los Angeles over the weekend, and then their flight to Chicago was delayed. They arrived early Monday morning, and still had enough in reserve to outlast the scrappy Pirates.
“They had to be tired today, but nevertheless played ’til post-midnight with energy,” manager Joe Maddon said, “and I love it.”
Rob Zastryzny (1-0) got his first major league win despite allowing Josh Harrison’s sacrifice fly in the top half of the inning. Jorge Soler and Willson Contreras homered for the Cubs, and Javier Baez collected four hits.
Pittsburgh had won eight straight road games. It fell 1 1/2 games back of St. Louis for the second NL wild card.
“Nothing to hang our heads about,” Harrison said. “We went out there and gave it everything we had. We got contributions from a lot of different people. We just came up short.”
Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell helped the Pirates build a 6-3 lead with opposite-field homers against Jake Arrieta, but Contreras belted a two-run shot to center against Neftali Feliz in the eighth and Soler connected for a tying solo shot in the ninth against closer Tony Watson.
Baez was thrown out at the plate to end the 10th and 12th innings. Catcher Francisco Cervelli made a nice lunging tag to get Baez on Rizzo’s inning-ending double play in the 10th, and then corralled left fielder Starling Marte’s outstanding throw in time to get Baez in the 12th.
“You’ve got to do everything perfectly and in our case it was done, twice,” Locke said.
Rizzo, one of the leading candidates for NL MVP, also struck out with runners on the corners for the final out of the eighth. But his single in the 13th drove in Fowler with the tying run.
Bell’s one-out shot to left in the fourth was Pittsburgh’s first hit of the game. With two outs and runners on first and second in the sixth, Polanco drove Arrieta’s first pitch over the wall in left for a 4-3 Pittsburgh lead.
Polanco also hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the sixth inning of the Pirates’ 3-1 win at Milwaukee on Sunday. He was batting just .138 (4 for 29) against Arrieta before his team-best 21st homer.
Arrieta was charged with six runs — matching a season high, also against Pittsburgh on July 8 — and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. The ace right-hander went 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his first four August starts, recalling his dominant second-half run to the NL Cy Young Award a year ago.
“I didn’t pitch as well as I would have liked,” he said. “Obviously the two homers were kind of the dagger for me.”
Active major league rosters can expand to as many as 40 players on Thursday, and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the team isn’t ready to discuss in detail what it might do.
“We’ve been working on it and continue to work on it next few days, both our internal decisions and anything that we might consider from outside the organization, too,” he said.
Asked about Tommy La Stella, who is playing for Triple-A Iowa after initially refusing to report to the minors, Epstein said he thinks the infielder will rejoin the Cubs this week.
Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (shoulder) was activated from the 15-day DL and optioned to Indianapolis, where he will make at least one start before the Triple-A season ends next week.
Cubs: RHP Pedro Strop (left meniscus tear) is throwing again, and RHP Hector Rondon (right triceps strain) also is “making great progress,” according to manager Joe Maddon. … RHP John Lackey (right shoulder strain) threw a side session.
Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (12-7, 2.19 ERA) and Pirates RHP Chad Kuhl (3-1, 3.50 ERA) get the ball for the second game of the series on Tuesday night. Hendricks is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in five August starts. Kuhl allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision in his previous start Thursday at Milwaukee.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap