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Cubs 7, Rays 3: Bullpen struggles cost Rays late in Chicago

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Tampa Bay Rays v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Rays offense got out in front early, per usual. Mallex Smith singled to right field. He then stole second base on a dropped ball from Javier Baez, and Evan Longoria brought him home with a well hit ground ball single to center field. After a single from Logan Morrison, Steven Souza Jr. sharply grounded into a double play, ending the inning.

Blake Snell found himself in a bit of trouble early. Willson Contreras blooped a single on a pitch below the zone for a single, and he walked Anthony Rizzo to put men on first and second with one out. After a meeting with Jim Hickey, Snell started to lock in. He struck out Ben Zobrist on a slider right at the knees. Ian Happ helped him out a bit by popping up on a 3-0 pitch to end the threat.

In the second, Snell continued his strong work, striking out Albert Almora on a neck high fastball, getting Addison Russell to strikeout on a fastball away, and getting John Lackey to strikeout to end the inning.

Mallex would continue his productive day, singling with one out in the third. Corey Dickerson would then take a fastball away deep to left field. Mallex, with his speed, came in to score fairly easily. Dickerson, however was tagged out attempting to go to third, but not without some nifty footwork.

Snell would encounter more trouble in the third inning a Bryant single and a Rizzo full-count walk. He attacked Ben Zobrist with fastballs and induced a double play to get out of the jam.

The game would remain quiet until the eighth inning. Mallex Smith hustled into second for a double after Javier Baez appeared to miss the tag.

Dickerson hit a grounder to second base on a cutter just above the ground and Mallex would advance to third. Evan Longoria came through with a sacrifice fly to center field, and the rays sat with a fairly comfortable 3-0 lead through 5 and a half innings.

Erasmo Ramirez would come in the sixth inning to try and hold the lead. Ian Happ hit a line drive sharply at Logan Morrison, but it popped out of the glove and Happ was on base. Javier Baez singled on a hard hit ball to left field. Addison Russell lined out sharply to Evan Longoria, and it looked like Erasmo had an opportunity to crawl out of the tough inning without any damage. But the least likely home run candidate, pinch-hitter Jon Jay, caught a changeup at the bottom of the strikezone, but got the barrel on it and a little carry all the way for a home run to left center field, discarding the Rays’ lead.

Erasmo would strikeout Willson Contreras to end the inning, but the damage allowed knotted the Cubs and Rays at 3.

Erasmo came back out to start the seventh, and walke Kris Bryant on four (albeit close) pitches. He was taken out in favor of side arming lefty Adam Kolarek to face Anthony Rizzo.

The With two strikes, Rizzo soft served a liner the other way for a single. Ben Zobrist laid downa sacrifice bunt, and Kolarek only had a play at first. With two runners in scoring position and one out, the Rays pulled the infield in. Kolarrek stayed down in the zone, and got a weakly chopped ground ball, but it was between Adeiny Hechavarria and Tim Beckham and rolled into center field, driving in two runs. The Cubs took a 5-3 lead at the end of the seventh.

The Rays had one more opportunity to win the game in the eighth inning. After a couple of easy outs for Carl Edwards Jr., Mallex Smith picked up his fourth hit on a bloop single between Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist in right field.

Edwards challenged Dickerson in, but missed on four pitches to set up Longoria with a situation to take the lead. Facing Koji Uehara, who he has not had very much success with, Longoria was caught out in front of a couple changeups, fouling them off. With Longoria sitting on Koji’s low 80’s changeup, he was able to blow 87 away past Longoria to end the threat.

Against Chase Whitley, the Cubs would pad their lead. Whitley hit Tommy LaStella with a pitch and walked Kris Bryant, bringing up Anthony Rizzo with two men on and two outs. Rizzo drove a pitch to center field for a double, bringing LaStella and Bryant home. The Cubs lead 7-3 at the end of the eighth.

With a four run deficit in the ninth inning and facing Wade Davis, the at-bats felt somewhat like a formality. Morrison still managed to come up with a lead off single. Steven Souza’s ground ball double play stymied the come back attempt. Tim Beckham worked a walk, but Adeiny Hechavarria grounded out to Kris Bryant to seal the Rays’ 7-3 defeat.

The discouraging loss was soothed a bit by the Yankees’ 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays. Regardless, the Rays sit at 44-42 before heading home for their final series before the all-star break at home against the Red Sox.