Cubs’ Mike Montgomery prepared to unleash full Monty in final start

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Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery spoke up in December to say he deserved a chance to start and has spent the last four months proving his point.

Now he says he’s ready to pitch the Cubs to a National League Central title Sunday if the Brewers push the division race to the final day of the season.

Montgomery is scheduled to start against the Cardinals in a game that might hold postseason implications for both teams.

‘‘I know it could be an important game for us; I’m going to prepare like it’s a playoff game,’’ said Montgomery, who is 5-5 with a 3.68 ERA in a career-high 18 starts since replacing injured right-hander Yu Darvish in May. ‘‘I think we’re at the point where every game is a playoff game.’’

It might be an especially dramatic way for him to finish his season as a starter before rejoining a bullpen that could use the help for October.

‘‘I’ve pitched in the playoffs the last couple of years,’’ said Montgomery, who got the final out in the 2016 World Series. ‘‘A lot of it’s not getting out of what got you there. The game’s going to have a lot of meaning, but that doesn’t mean I have to change the way I’m going to execute a fastball down and away.

‘‘I’m excited. I really like pitching in big games, and I think everyone here likes playing in these kinds of moments.’’

Strop close

Potential playoff closer Pedro Strop has thrown from a bullpen mound twice this week as he gets closer to returning from an injured left hamstring suffered Sept. 13, but he still looks like a long shot to get in a game before the playoffs.


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‘‘He’s throwing kind of at full strength; he’s just not 100 percent comfortable on the landing yet,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘But overall, he’s pretty darn close. He’s further along than we anticipated at this point.’’

Strop’s health might be critical to a patchwork bullpen that already will be without closer Brandon Morrow (elbow) the rest of the way.

Strop, who converted 11 of 13 save chances after Morrow went on the disabled list in July, repeatedly has said he hoped to make at least one appearance before the playoffs. But he won’t be pushed during this final weekend, Maddon said.

Bryant power

Two at-bats into his return to the lineup Friday, third baseman Kris Bryant dispelled at least initial doubts that his bruised wrist — or recurring shoulder issues — will keep him from being productive in the playoffs.

After striking out in the first inning, Bryant hit a 1-1 curveball from Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright onto the roof behind the batter’s eye in center field in the fourth. It was his second homer in 11 days after going two months without one.

‘‘The shoulder’s been rested a couple of days now; the hand I don’t think is an issue,’’ Maddon said after Bryant missed two games since getting hit on the wrist by a pitch Tuesday. ‘‘I think he can be effective.’’

Catching depth

The Cubs activated catcher Bobby Wilson (ankle), giving them a third catcher on the bench to go with Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis.

Wilson, 35, was acquired from the Twins in a trade last month for catcher Chris Gimenez and a player to be named or cash.

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