Terrific defensive plays preserve Cubs' shutout

Almora makes two impressive catches in center to support Hendricks, bullpen

Terrific defensive plays preserve Cubs' shutout

CHICAGO -- Albert Almora Jr. may have gone 0-for-4 at the plate, but the rookie center fielder was one of the defensive heroes Friday afternoon for the Cubs.

Almora robbed the Rangers' Ryan Rua of a potential extra-base hit with a lunging catch in the fourth inning, and he preserved the Cubs' 6-0 Interleague win at Wrigley Field with a nifty catch of Elvis Andrus' fly ball to the warning track in center to end the game.

"That's my job," Almora said. "I try to take care of those guys. I didn't do anything offensively today, but I'm happy with today because we won. I helped out defensively."

Almora Jr.'s sliding catch

And that kind of play makes manager Joe Maddon very happy.

"Everybody will look at 6-0, [but] we pitched and really played defense today," Maddon said. "If we pitch and play defense like that the rest of the year, the run differential will be just fine. ... That's what you want to see on a nightly basis. That's good baseball."

Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks would agree. The stellar glovework preserved his six dominant innings.

"That one to right-center [by Rua], I thought was going to be in the gap for a double, but then you see them closing on it so quick, and you get that hope that they'll get there, and they do," Hendricks said.

And if the Cubs are playing solid behind Hendricks, he can focus on his job.

"The pitcher can go out there and do what he has to do and doesn't have to worry about the defensive side," shortstop Addison Russell said. "He just has to hit his spots and everything will be covered."

It wasn't just the outfield, either. In the third, rookie catcher Willson Contreras threw out Rougned Odor trying to steal, with second baseman Javier Baez making a quick tag.

Contreras cuts down Odor

Almora, starting in center in place of injured All-Star Dexter Fowler, wants to do whatever he can.

"Every ball out there, I want to catch," Almora said. "My job is to help these guys out however I can. I take pride in that."

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.