Manny Machado says Albert Almora will be 'a great Cub someday'

Manny Machado says Albert Almora will be 'a great Cub someday'

Manny Machado and Albert Almora aren't actually related by blood, but they call each other cousins after growing up together in South Florida.  

Machado thought of their Hialeah connection over the weekend at Wrigley Field, where Almora hopes to be an instant-impact player, the same way the Baltimore Orioles got a jolt from their All-Star third baseman.

"He's dying to come up here," Machado said. "He's had a couple injuries that have kinda held him back a little bit. But I tell him, 'You gotta stay strong. I'm going on my second knee surgery and you gotta stay positive.'"

Machado, 22, had just faced the reality he would need a season-ending procedure on his right knee, missing what Baltimore hopes will be a World Series run. But Machado still found time to talk up his “cousin” Almora, who is just getting his first taste of Double-A ball.

"He loves [being in the Cubs system],” Machado said. “He wants to help the team win. He's a very big team-oriented guy. He's all about winning and I think he's gonna be a great Cub someday. Hopefully, that day is sooner rather than later."

At the age of 20, Machado moved off shortstop and made the jump from Double-A to The Show, becoming an important piece to Baltimore’s surprise playoff team in 2012. He earned an All-Star selection and a Gold Glove last season.

Almora is 20 now, but the Cubs are in a different position and won't accelerate his timeline. Not with only 29 games at Tennessee under his belt.

A broken hamate bone and a groin injury limited Almora to just 61 games last season at Class-A Kane County. He had to come out of Tennessee's game on Saturday with a hamstring injury, but felt good enough on Sunday to collect a pinch-hit single.

Almora's numbers haven't been eye-popping this year. He entered Monday hitting .278 with nine homers, 59 RBI and a .701 OPS in 118 games split between two levels. But his intangibles are off the charts, a big reason why he became the first player drafted here by the Theo Epstein administration (sixth overall in 2012).

The centerfielder has shown maturity beyond his years, a baseball IQ Machado thinks Almora developed by playing up a level with the high-profile teams in Miami.

"He's an overall elite player," Machado said. "He's young, but he's the type of player that, eventually, he's going to be one of the best players in the major leagues one day.

"I think what makes him the best is his defense. He's one of the best defensive outfielders out there. He could be one of the top guys in the big leagues right now. I'm a big defensive guy and I think that's what's gonna get him here.

"Overall, he's just a great kid, a great clubhouse guy that everybody loves. He's a team guy. He's going to go out there and bust his ass off for everything and lay it all on the field."

Machado and Almora still talk on a regular basis, trying to help each other make it in a sport that has a way of humbling young players.

"He hits me up on how he's doing and the things he needs to face, the things he's feeling hitting-wise and just overall," Machado said. "The biggest advice I gave him is to just keep grinding every day. Give 110 percent of what you do out there.

"That will take you a long way. He's a tremendously hard worker who addresses areas of his game that need to be worked on. And I think that will get him to the big leagues."

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

BOSTON — The Chicago Cubs adjusted quickly to Steven Wright's knuckleball.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero had a solo shot off Wright, helping the Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

"I thought we did a nice job. It's just awkward hitting against the knuckleball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "There is no real training ground for it. You don't necessarily get a guy out there throwing a knuckleball in BP."

All the Cubs faced Wright for the first time.

After collecting just one single in the first three innings, Rizzo's homer started Chicago's comeback from a 3-0 deficit. Montero's shot tied it in the seventh.

"It's just hard. You really don't know what to look for," Montero said before joking "I told the umpire I'm going to close my eyes and swing hard in case I hit it."

Ben Zobrist added a solo homer, and Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Lackey said he texted former teammate Dustin Pedroia on the way to the ballpark.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers. Boston's streak of nine straight interleague wins in Fenway Park was snapped.

Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

"I think with the exception of the 0-2 slow knuckleball that Steven threw to Rizzo, this was his best knuckleball that he's had to date," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Wright has given up nine homers after allowing only 12 last season.

"I felt a lot better today overall," he said. "The one pitch I wish I could get back was that 0-2 pitch to Rizzo. I was trying to get it a little bit more in front of the plate and it kind of stood up a little bit and he made me pay."

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.

With summer-like temperatures for the second straight day and a marquee matchup with the defending champs, there was added buzz around the ballpark hours before the game.

Mixed in the fans flocking around Fenway were numerous Cubs fans wearing jerseys - many with "Sandberg," ''Bryant" or "Rizzo" on the back. There was a loud "Let's Go Cubbies!" in the ninth, and that was followed by some large "W'' flags after the Cubs won - a staple in Wrigley Field.

The Cubs overcame a 4-2 deficit with a run in the sixth inning and three in a seventh that was highlighted by two errors on one play.

Zobrist's run-scoring grounder sliced it to 4-3. Montero homered leading off the seventh against Wright before Kyle Schwarber's RBI single pushed them ahead.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts threw the ball away for an error on Rizzo's fielder's choice, allowing Schwarber to score. First baseman Mitch Moreland retrieved and fired it into left field.

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI single made it 1-0 in the second.

Benintendi had a sacrifice fly and Ramirez belted his homer over the Green Monster seats completely out of Fenway, a shot estimated at 469 feet, in the third.

Bryant opened the fourth with a hard single and Rizzo followed with his drive to the back of Chicago's bullpen.

Benintendi hit his homer over Boston's bullpen.

Jake Arrieta gives up five runs in first, Cubs fall in series-opener with Red Sox

Jake Arrieta gives up five runs in first, Cubs fall in series-opener with Red Sox

BOSTON — Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer off Jake Arrieta during a five-run first inning, and the Boston Red Sox held on to beat the Cubs 5-4 on Friday night.

Every Boston starter had at least one hit, and Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez drove in a run each.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz got the win with six innings of two-run ball, surrendering solo homers to Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. in the early innings before settling in. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Boston has won its last nine interleague games at Fenway Park.

Arrieta logged his shortest start since Aug. 28, 2014, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up 10 hits and three walks with five strikeouts.