NEW YORK -- The Cubs struck out a season-high 24 times on Saturday night, but Albert Almora Jr. made contact when it counted and Luke Farrell delivered the innings when needed.
Almora smacked a tie-breaking two-run double with one out in the 14th inning, and the Cubs piled on for a 7-1 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. The game was much closer than the score would indicate.
With the score tied at 1 and one out in the Chicago 14th against Buddy Baumann, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber singled. Almora then lofted a double to right-center, driving in both runners.
"Coming into that last at-bat, when Schwarber got that base hit, I tried to psych myself up and said, 'I'm going to do this right now, I'm going to get this knock, I'm going to come through,'" Almora said.
Benjamin Zobrist added a two-run double, and pinch-hitter Javier Baez belted a two-run homer.
"We were yelling at [manager] Joe [Maddon], 'You took that long to put [Baez] in! If he was going to do that, we would've been out of here a long time ago!'" Almora said jokingly.
Farrell, who had blown back-to-back extra-inning games in early May, pitched five innings in relief, earning the win and saving the short-handed bullpen.
"This is great for his confidence," Maddon said. "He's been starting down there [in the Minor Leagues] and had been stretched out, fortunately for us. He might have had one more [inning]."
Brandon Morrow was able to pitch the 14th; Maddon said he could do that knowing that his closer will get Sunday and Monday off. The Cubs were close to calling on catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch.
Farrell hasn't forgotten those May losses.
"I remember," Farrell said. "This feels good. That was certainly a low point in my baseball career. To have a little bounceback like this is important."
"[We told him], 'Hey, man, you're here for a reason, you're an unbelievable pitcher,'" Almora said. "He's a really good pitcher. You could tell today. I really wanted to do it for him, too. He had such a great game."
It wasn't the usual mop-up pitching, either.
"Farrell having to go out there every time knowing [the Mets] can't score at all, that's not easy to do," Maddon said.
The Cubs struggled to make contact against Mets starter Jacob deGrom, who fanned 13 over seven innings. Maddon had to face some of the top pitching staffs when he managed the Rays in the tough American League East. He knew what to expect against deGrom.
"For me, the best way to beat better pitching is to pitch better than better pitching," he said. "When you get guys like this, like deGrom, the secret for me is, when you get a chance to score with the out, move the baseball. You get a runner at third, less than two outs, you can't leave him there. You can take more chances against a guy like this, because he normally doesn't give up a bunch of hits in a row."
But deGrom did just that in the sixth, serving up three consecutive singles, capped by Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring hit. The Mets tied the score in their half on Michael Conforto's home run off starter Mike Montgomery, who may not have matched deGrom's strikeout totals but held his own.
Montgomery was making his second start in place of the injured Yu Darvish, and he was able to induce weak contact, for the most part. Conforto's homer was not a soft hit, registering a 109.1-mph exit velocity and traveling a projected 429 feet.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Cubs might have avoided extra innings had they delivered in the first against deGrom. Chicago loaded the bases with one out on singles by Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Rizzo, but deGrom got Contreras looking at a 97-mph fastball for strike three and then struck out Schwarber on three pitches, finishing the at-bat with a 99-mph fastball. deGrom needed 23 pitches to get through the first.
Heyward, Bryant and Rizzo each singled in the sixth to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Bryant and Rizzo then advanced on Contreras' sacrifice, and Schwarber was intentionally walked to load the bases. But just as he did in the first, deGrom shut down the Cubs by striking out Almora and Addison Russell. Teams are now 0-for-12 vs. deGrom with the bases loaded.
"It was an interesting night," Maddon said. "Obviously, I'm a lot chippier and happier because we won. Had we not won that game, with all those opportunities, it would have been difficult. However, we did win."
The 24 K's were the most for the Cubs in a single game since they fanned 26 times in an 18-inning game against the Yankees on May 7, 2017.
HE SAID IT
"He was unbelievable. It's been a while since I've faced a pitcher like that. Everything was moving away from my barrel. His fastball had some late life, his slider was sharp, and he threw me one of the nastiest changeups I've ever seen. We didn't have very much success against him. Some guys had really good at-bats. I wasn't one of them. Tip your hat to the guy." -- Almora, on deGrom
Left-hander Jonathan Lester will close the series against the Mets on Sunday. Lester is coming off a win over the Pirates in which he not only struck out six over six innings, he collected two hits himself. Even better, he didn't walk a batter. Lester is 5-1 with a 3.83 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets, including five quality starts. First pitch from Citi Field is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. CT; Steven Matz takes the hill for the home team.