Rays find some power late, hang on to beat Cubs and avoid sweep

Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO — The Rays looked headed for a three-game sweep by the Cubs until they finally looked a bit like themselves late in Wednesday’s matinee, pulling out a tense 4-3 win.

A two-run homer by Brandon Lowe in the seventh inning got the Rays even after what to that point had been a third straight uncharacteristically quiet game offensively.

The Cubs went back on top with a run in their half of the seventh before a two-run homer by Jose Siri in the eighth put the Rays ahead to stay. Reliever Jason Adam had to navigate a perilous home eighth, and rookie Kevin Kelly and Jalen Beeks handled the ninth.

With the win, the Rays improved their majors-leading record to 40-18 and avoided their first three-game losing streak and series sweep of the season. They are off Thursday before opening a four-games-in-three-days series in Boston on Friday.

The Rays didn’t look good during the series, shut out on one hit in Monday’s opener, slapping seven hits but scoring only one run Tuesday, then going hitless through four innings and being held to one hit into the seventh on Wednesday. For the series, they scored just five runs.

After grinding his way through seven innings with no strikeouts in his last outing on May 25, Rays starter Zach Eflin got off to a bit of a rough start, allowing two runs in the first.

Nico Hoerner drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on Ian Happ’s one-out single. Happ then stole second before scoring on a two-out single by Mike Tauchman.

Eflin didn’t allow much else, working into the seventh.

The Rays were set down in order through the first three innings by Cubs lefty starter Justin Steele. They got a baserunner on in the fourth off reliever Hayden Wesneski when Randy Arozarena walked with one out. Their first hit came in the fifth, when Manuel Margot led off with a grounder that shortstop Dansby Swanson didn’t field cleanly.

They finally got on the board — and even with the Cubs — in the seventh. Margot drew a two-out walk off Wesneski, leading the Cubs to bring in Mark Leiter Jr.

Lowe, after a rough couple of games, came up with a big blast, a 431-foot homer to center that tied the game.

Things didn’t stay even long, as Eflin allowed a leadoff double to Seiya Suzuki in the home seventh. The Cubs bunted Suzuki to third, then pinch-hitter Trey Mancini brought him in, lacing a liner over the head of Arozarena in left.

The Rays took the lead right back. Taylor Walls drew a leadoff walk from Leiter in the eighth, then stole second. Siri followed with a 411-foot shot to center.

The Rays had a chance to add on when they loaded the bases in the ninth on three walks, but Yandy Diaz struck out.

The bottom of the ninth was a challenge.

Rule 5 rookie Kevin Kelly, pressed into higher-leverage duty with Pete Fairbanks injured, got a quick first out but then walked Mike Tauchman and hit pinch-hitter Edwin Rios on a call the Rays challenged unsuccessfully.

Patrick Wisdom hit a grounder to third baseman Isaac Paredes that could have been a game-ending double play, but his throw was wide of second, loading the bases with Cubs.

The Rays switched to the lefty Beeks, and former Ray Miles Mastrobuoni struck out. Catcher Yan Gomes then lined out to Arozarena in left to end the game.