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Almora thumps hometown club in rare start

Cubs outfielder hits homer with family watching in Miami
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Albert Almora Jr. is just like any other Major League ballplayer and would love to be in the lineup every day.

"If I say no, I'm a liar," Almora said. "I'm a competitor and I want to play, but it's not about me. It's about the Chicago Cubs and winning another World Series. I'm happy to be here and happy to help in whatever way I can. Tonight, they gave me an opportunity and I'm glad I helped out."

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CHICAGO -- Albert Almora Jr. is just like any other Major League ballplayer and would love to be in the lineup every day.

"If I say no, I'm a liar," Almora said. "I'm a competitor and I want to play, but it's not about me. It's about the Chicago Cubs and winning another World Series. I'm happy to be here and happy to help in whatever way I can. Tonight, they gave me an opportunity and I'm glad I helped out."

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Starting for the first time since May 28, Almora smacked a solo home run, and Kris Bryant hit a two-run shot to lift the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Marlins on Monday night for their fourth straight win.

Almora's playing time has been limited with the ascension of rookie Ian Happ, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon had planned on starting Almora against the Marlins' Dan Straily. Left-handers were batting .181 against Straily, while right-handed hitters were batting .207.

"If we had eight right-handers plus the pitcher, I would do it against Straily in a heartbeat," Maddon said. "Yes, it was Albert's turn to play, based on their pitcher."

"I know my role," Almora said, "and whenever I'm given the opportunity, I'll try to take advantage of it."

It was perfect timing on Monday. Almora is from Hialeah, Fla., and had plenty of family and friends watching the game from the Miami area.

"I got a lot of texts from my friends who were watching the game from [the Marlins] broadcast," Almora said. "They kept mentioning where I was from and the boys [back home] got excited because I was representing the 'hood."

Almora connected despite a 17-mph northerly wind that normally favors pitchers, not hitters.

"It was real strong today," Almora said of the wind. "I think Jon Jay and I, in our hitters meeting, we said, if we hit a ball in the air, we have to go [get it]. For people who are comfortable out there, it was uncomfortable. It happens. We're in Wrigley, we expect that."

But what Almora and the other Cubs have discovered is that if they keep the ball low, it has a chance, no matter what the elements are.

"You know it's possible," Almora said. "In [batting practice], we were crushing balls. You try not to do too much in these situations. You know if you hit the ball hard, it's going to go."

The Cubs have been on a homer spree lately, hitting 27 in their last 13 home games, including two or more in eight of the last nine home games.

"It's almost like the NBA with three-pointers and dunks," Maddon said. "There's no 15-foot bank or pull-up jumper."

Straily fell behind 3-0 against Almora with two outs in the fourth, threw a strike, and Almora connected on the next pitch. According to Statcast™, the exit velocity was 106 mph and the ball sailed an estimated 423 feet. It was his third home run of the season and first since April 28 at Boston.

"I'm just happy I'm able to represent my family back home," Almora said. "I just do it for them. When I give them the chance to see their son or their friend go out there and have success, I'm just happy it happened."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Albert Almora Jr.