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Almora making write-in case for All-Star bid

Cubs outfielder improves vs. RHPs to lift overall average to .332
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Albert Almora Jr. may not be on the ballot for the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, but the Cubs outfielder is having a first half worthy of consideration, manager Joe Maddon said Sunday.

Almora began the day second in the National League in batting average at .332, percentage points behind the Reds' Scooter Gennett.

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CHICAGO -- Albert Almora Jr. may not be on the ballot for the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, but the Cubs outfielder is having a first half worthy of consideration, manager Joe Maddon said Sunday.

Almora began the day second in the National League in batting average at .332, percentage points behind the Reds' Scooter Gennett.

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Almora did have to leave Saturday's game because of cramps in both legs due to the heat, and he was not in Sunday's lineup. However, he was available, Maddon said.

Video: MIN@CHC: Almora Jr. gives Cubs lead, later leaves

"He's definitely having an All-Star-caliber season, no question," Maddon said.

Vote Cubs: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot

The difference is Almora's improved numbers against right-handed pitchers. Last season, he batted .271 in 188 at-bats against right-handers. This year, he's hitting .331 in 172 at-bats against righties.

"If you look at the splits and how he's ascended versus right-handed pitching, he's done so much better," Maddon said.

Almora was not on the ballot because teams must submit the names of players before the season begins.

Speaking of improvements
Jason Heyward totaled 34 hits in June, the most he's collected in a month since August 2014 (35). He batted .327 in June. Last season, he batted .259 with 15 hits in June.

The difference isn't just a switch to the No. 2 spot in the Cubs' lineup, which gives him more at-bats.

"It's as simple as his hands," Maddon said of Heyward. "He could've had 100 more at-bats with his previous method compared to what he's doing. Look at the two hits [Saturday] -- look at the line drive over [Brian] Dozier's head on the shift after they got to two strikes and look at the line drive over the shortstop's head the other way. That's it. If you want to know why, look at those two at-bats and break those down. You'll see exactly why the number of hits is so high."

The first hit Maddon referenced came in the third inning, and the latter was in the seventh during the Cubs' five-run outburst.

Video: MIN@CHC: Heyward notches 4 hits in win vs. Twins

Extra bases
Carl Edwards Jr. (right shoulder inflammation) was expected to make another relief appearance either Sunday or Monday with Triple-A Iowa.

• Maddon said he supports his players taking part in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

"If Javy [Javier Baez] were a participant, I think people would really enjoy that -- as much as he would," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Albert Almora Jr.