Cubs

Albert Almora Jr. knows he doesn't need to sell the Cubs to 'cousin' Manny Machado

Albert Almora Jr. knows he doesn't need to sell the Cubs to 'cousin' Manny Machado

Albert Almora Jr. has known Manny Machado all his life.

They're so close, they call each other "cousins", refer to the other's parents as "aunt" and "uncle" and Almora was a groomsman in Machado's wedding.

So with all these rumors about the Cubs potentially being the frontrunner to trade for Machado this summer, should we start referring to Almora-Machado as the better potential bromance in Chicago over Bryant-Harper?

The Cubs would have to acquire Machado in a trade this summer, but they undoubtedly wouldn't do that unless they thought they could sell him on staying here long-term when he reaches free agency after the 2018 season.

But Almora doesn't think he or the Cubs need to sell anything to Machado.

"That's the great thing about this organization," Almora said. "There's nothing that needs to be said. Guys want to play for us because we're the team to be and we have a lot of fun here. We have a great group of guys."

The Cubs have put together a heck of a resume in recent years, to the point where one reporter asked Kris Bryant if they're almost at the New England Patriots level of success.

That's taking things a few steps too far given the Cubs have won just one championship. But they have made it to the National League Championship Series three years in a row, they lead baseball in regular season wins since the start of the 2015 season and they have arguably the best young core in baseball.

It wouldn't have to take much convincing to want to join the same lineup as Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Javy Baez and others while playing for a manager (Joe Maddon) that has no rules as long as you hustle down the line and a front office that is among the best in baseball at accomodating players' families and off-field lives.

Oh yeah, and then there's the whole Wrigley Field effect and a fanbase that is as national and passionate as they come.

Almora insists he doesn't talk to his "cousin" about coming to the Cubs and maintained he loves the current roster and has said all year they have a special team.

That being said, Almora did concede to how awesome it would be if he and Machado could win the World Series someday on the same team.

They used to dream up that situation in their backyards as kids and when Almora got a ring with the Cubs in 2016, he jokingly rubbed it in Machado's face as they worked out together in Miami.

"We used to play a game," Almora said. "I used to throw him a basketball. He used to hit it with a wood bat and we'd put scenarios in my backyard — World Series and stuff like that. 

"But obviously we never sat down and talked about it seriously as kids. Now that we're adults, that would be special."

Machado is clearly in the discussion as one of the very best players in baseball while Almora is just now earning everyday playing time. But the Cubs centerfielder wouldn't concede to the fact that his bestie was better than him as children.

"Between Manny and myself? He was older than I am," Almora said, smiling. "I don't know, I'm not gonna say he was better than me."

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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