Cubs

Albert Almora leaning on perspective to push through struggles

Albert Almora leaning on perspective to push through struggles

These are commonly called the dog days of summer, and after having played through roughly two-thirds of the season, especially so for baseball players. For Albert Almora, Jr. batting fifth in Wednesday's lineup, this tough stretch of the year has been made even tougher thanks to a prolonged slump.

Almora is hitting just barely above .200 over the last thirty days. August has been even worse, at .185 going in to Wednesday's game against the Brewers. But despite these struggles, Almora is working to keep it all in perspective so that he can turn things around.

"The mental grind of it is obviously overwhelming at times, but if you’re struggling a little bit or seem not to be having a lot of luck, you just think of the positives day in and day out of what you go through," Almora said.

Admitting that this is sometimes easier said than done, Almora said that it helps being on a team that does a very good job of turning the page when things go badly. 

A big help in not letting his struggles at the plate weigh on him too heavily, Almora said, has been his family. Almora and his wife Krystal have a son, AJ, who was born late in the 2016 season, and she is pregnant with their second child. A health scare for her took Almora away from the team for a couple of days in mid-July. Thankfully all turned out well, but it's the kind of thing that puts anyone's life into perspective.

"You rely on family. Obviously my son’s a big part. He’s at a point where he just wants to play with Dad, and we have a lot of fun," Almora said. "He doesn’t really care, and that puts it into perspective for me. I go home, at the end of the day it’s just a game."

All the same, the task of preparing day in and day out and trying to stay productive in the midst of a period of struggle isn't easy when the hard contact he's making lands in gloves rather than grass or among the bleacher faithful. 

"You always try to think about it as a game," Almora said. "This is a game we’ve been playing since we were kids, but it does get away from you at times. You press for a little bit, so it does wear on you a little bit if you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to."

But there are positive signs for Almora. After striking out in a pinch-hit appearance on Tuesday, he drew two walks and hit a homer the next day. And whether the slump continues or not, he hasn't lost faith in himself.

"I have confidence in myself that I’m pretty good at this," Almora said. "And I’ll be alright."

Kris Bryant hit a homer, but Cubs announcer Jim Deshaies stole the show with an incredible sequence

Kris Bryant hit a homer, but Cubs announcer Jim Deshaies stole the show with an incredible sequence

The last time Kris Bryant homered, milk was 10 cents a gallon, nobody had ever heard the term "launch angle" and Khalil Mack was still on the Raiders.

OK, it's not been quite that long (except the last point is true), but the 2016 MVP went yard Monday night for the first time in nearly two months.

Bryant's opposite field shot was his first dinger since July 20 or put another way — it was his first homer since the Cubs traded for Cole Hamels and Jesse Chavez.

It was beautiful swing, too, but Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies upstaged Bryant by calling the shot and maintaining that prediction the entire at-bat.

Deshaies and Len Kasper teamed up for one of the most incredible calls of the Cubs 2018 season, adding to the joy for fans as they watched the 2016 NL MVP finally get on the board in the homer column.

Bryant hit a solo shot on July 20 against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, but went on the shelf four days later after aggravating his shoulder injury. He missed more than five weeks before returning Sept. 1 and then went another 49 at-bats before connecting on his first dinger.

That's a great sign for a Cubs offense that has scuffled badly in September and has missed Bryant being Bryant.

Even Joe Maddon's son enjoys second-guessing his dad

joe_maddon_son_funny_tweet_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

Even Joe Maddon's son enjoys second-guessing his dad

When Joe Maddon walked out of the visiting dugout at Chase Field Monday night, Cubs fans were in an uproar on Twitter.

Including Maddon's own son, Joseph.

Maddon opted to take starter Kyle Hendricks out of the Cubs' 5-1 victory with two outs in the ninth inning following Paul Goldschmidt's single up the middle.

To which Joseph responded: "I get why he did it but I still booed my dad for pulling The Professor."

Maddon gets a lot of heat on Twitter, but this was an appropriate, light-hearted take on second-guessing the decisions of the Cubs skipper in a game in which his team cruised to its 88th victory of the season.

For all the crap he takes, this has probably been Maddon's finest season at the helm of the Cubs, who currently hold the best record in the National League despite an exhausting stretch over the last month.

Since Pedro Strop went down with a hamstring injury in Washington D.C. last Thursday, Maddon has had to get creative with the Cubs bullpen, deploying the likes of Dillon Maples, Jaime Garcia, Randy Rosario and Jorge De La Rosa alongside the team's top relievers in high-leverage situations.

The result has been a string of 9.2 scoreless innings from the Cubs bullpen, including the one pitch Justin Wilson threw Monday night before the final out.