CHICAGO -- Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. hit the ivy and then came up howling.
In the first inning of the Cubs' 4-3, 10-inning win against the Reds on Tuesday night, Almora made a jaw-dropping catch at the wall, robbing Joey Votto of a sure extra-base hit. With one out, Votto scorched a pitch from Chicago righty Alec Mills high to center field, sending Almora into a sprint toward Wrigley Field's famous ivy-covered brick wall.
As Almora's feet hit the dirt warning track, the center fielder dropped into a slide to avoid slamming into the wall. At the same time, he made an over-the-shoulder catch that ended with his feet and glove hitting the ivy. Almora immediately rose to his feet, let out a primal yell and flipped the ball from his glove to his bare hand as the crowd roared.
"It was perfection," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I saw the replay on the board, and I told him, I said, 'You ran a perfect route in a straight line.' But did you notice the two peeks? He was running, peek, run, peek, and then he knew exactly what he had to do. That was Outfield Play 101."
Per Statcast, Almora's incredible grab was a four-star catch, given that it came with a 40 percent catch probability. The center fielder had to cover 114 feet in 6.1 seconds in order to track down the deep fly from Votto. Entering the night, Almora had registered seven Outs Above Average, trailing only Victor Robles (11), Harrison Bader (nine) and Lorenzo Cain (nine) in the National League.
"That's probably the best play I've ever had happen while I'm pitching, by far," Mills said. "That was unbelievable."