The 9th inning of yesterday’s 3-1 loss to the Reds was of almost no interest whatsoever to Cubs fans. The division was long locked up, the team was resting its regulars, and a loss would mean nothing to anything except the Cubs’ draft pick standing (which, frankly, is better for the loss).
But one thing did happen in the 9th inning that I think actually is of great interest to Cubs fans, as it was the continuation of a very nice trend for a guy who, only a few days earlier, looked like he might not even play again this season.
Albert Almora Jr. slammed awkwardly into the wall last week in St. Louis, injuring his shoulder in the process, and putting his playoffs plans in doubt. Although not a regular starter, the Cubs would definitely not want to be without Almora’s outfield glove and right-handed bench bat in the playoffs.
Thankfully, they won’t be.
Almora returned to action this weekend in the second half of each game, and stepped to the plate on Sunday in the final inning of the regular season, and rocked a 419-foot, 104.7 mph homer to center field off of Reds closer Raisel Iglesias.
That homer was Almora’s 8th of the year, and pushed his season line to a very nice .298/.338/.445 (103 wRC+). Of even greater note, that was just the third homer to a righty that Iglesias has given up all year. Not bad for a batter who had struggled against righties for much of the season.
By the end of the year, thanks to a hot streak in the final two months, Almora’s line against fellow righties is not too terrible anymore: .271/.291/.420 (81 wRC+). Naturally, you’d want to see a good bit more if he’s going to be a regular next year, but the progress was evident as the season went on. His line in the second half against righties? .319/.311/.583 (123 wRC+).
Still, don’t expect to see Almora drawing all the starts in the postseason.
“It’s getting better [against righties], but that doesn’t mean anything in a sense,” Maddon told ESPN of Almora’s recent success. “It’s about the righties we think he’s good against. I’m sure the people that want to see him play against righties are very happy he hit a home run.”
For now, I’m just happy to know that Almora is healthy, is progressing against righties, and will be available to help in the postseason, just like he did last year.